MOMA New York

These three works: National Museum of Art Tokyo, 1999 by Thomas Struth (German born), The Story Teller, 1986 by Jeff Wall (Canadian born) and Jpeg ny02, 2002 by Thomas Ruff (German born), were exhibited together in one corridor at the MOMA, New York. Each were shown as above; large scale with lights shining behind them. This exhibition was curated as such because each piece links themselves through their exploration of political and cultural diversity, whilst bringing together the space where the past meets the present day.

I first experienced Thomas Struth’s piece. This piece explores ideas of the coming together of different cultures and the exchange between them. His piece reveals Delacroix’s 1830 painting Liberty Leading the People, a beloved treasure of Japan which was sent over to the Louvre to be exhibited. Struth photographs the French contribution in the hall that the Japanese had designed to exhibit it. Struth’s work produces a contemporary atmosphere, where the ancient history is brought forward into the modern scene; onto a cinema screen. Delacroix’s characters collisions are double reflected in this piece as history sprints forward and the modern day become frozen in front of the screen. The distance that was there in the initial bullet proof glass in the Louvre is imitated here on the screen, continues to show the respect and appreciation of difference between the different cultures.

Jeff Wall’s, The Storyteller, looks at social changes and the collision between classes. The woman in the corner, the storyteller, can be said to represent the native people of Canada, where modern life has been seen to be eroding their traditions of oral history. By recreating the past in the present, on a light box, it is almost as if he seeks to preserve this history by bringing it forward into our current world. The storyteller has also been compared to Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863). The positioning of the characters is very similar and with both Manet and Wall taking on the role of an observer of modern life and radically reinterpreting the historical traditional scene, we find the past jumping forward in to the present.

This almost shocking piece reveals the Twin Towers on fire after the planes had hit them. The obvious cultural collision is drastically apparent here. Not only is this a provoking concept on its own, but the manner in which it has been manipulated adds separate ideas. The photograph is so large and manipulated in such a way, that when close up the iconic image dissolves into a mosaic image light and dark squares. Thought’s of political control are evoked; about how we have been shown this event and how it may have been manipulated but Ruff’s main fascination is with our perception contrasted with how the machine manipulates the image. From the machine’s pixilation, I still find the sense of the past keeping present in the modern ‘art world’. We see the Impressionist’s brushstrokes standing firm in the new digital era and the continuance of our connection with history. It seems that this exhibition is curated to connect these 3 pieces through their illustration of the past jumping forward into the future.

Final year Fine Art Student at Nottingham Trent University. I mainly work with text within a live performative context.