Crossed Wires

Thomas Struth's Scientific Exposé at Marian Goodman

Since 1978, German artist Thomas Struth has been absorbed in the ambitious self-appointed task of “being a witness of our time,” chronicling the evolution of social history via the medium of his pristine, large-format photographs. His subjects are wide-ranging, from the towering skyscrapers he shot in Tokyo in the 1980s to the clusters of tourists he captured gazing at the masterpieces of the Museo del Prado in 2005. What unites his work is a keen interest in man’s sometimes confused relationship with the spaces he has created to surround him—galleries, urban environments, domiciles and municipal architecture. His latest series, on show at Marian Goodman New York as of May 7 (as part of the inaugural New York Gallery Week), takes the viewer behind the scenes of industrial and scientific locations, focusing on advanced research that is typically invisible to the public, but nonetheless paid for by our governments. “We invest billions of dollars into the space shuttle system, but we cannot unite on healthcare,” says Struth. “I’m not even judging it. I’m just saying: ‘Please look at this. Is it not very strange?’” The idea for the series was prompted by a visit to Korea three years ago, where he photographed the construction of an enormous, submersible oil rig to produce what has become—at a colossal 280 x 360 centimeters—the largest picture in the Marian Goodman exhibition. From there he became fascinated with the idea of furious, unseen industry and began to visit private laboratories such as the Max Planck institutes in Garching and Greifswald, Germany (where scientists are researching a plasma-powered fusion reactor), to get a glimpse of the secret “entanglement” of the human psyche in its most advanced thoughts. He describes each one of these enthralling, chaotic images as “an imprint of the human soul into the material world. This is the materialized mind.”
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