© Andreas Gursky/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013/ Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

ANDREAS GURSKY

Charles de Gaulle

1992

zur  Biographie

Unlike the railway, which in the 19th century had its station in the town center, the aircraft ("carrier”) has not produced a comparable architecture characterized by a surfeit in formal vocabulary. There is a strange weightlessness about Andreas Gursky’s airport photograph Charles de Gaulle, Paris. Perhaps in keeping with the subject the intention is to bring into play a two-fold dematerialization. The emphasis in on air traffic and architectural photography, which no longer sees itself as an exact reproduction of reality, but as "an image of the image of reality” (Thomas Ruff). As such the empty space at the center of the photograph makes this striking place recognizable for what it is namely a centrifuge of mobility. Not only does this highly formalized image remind us of Paul Virilio’s formula of "accelerated standstill”, but also of Piranesi’s Carceri.

Within this European hub in terms of their transportation function the escalators for the travelers (depicted in the photo as tiny creatures) inside the t minal building do not differ much from a highway intersection or the invisible conveyor belts for the luggage of the "passengers”. Not only does the space in this image appear bottomless it is also very anti-urban. Not unlike Balthasar Burkhardt’s approach in aerial photographs, Andreas Gursky also adopts a raised vantage point to attain distance to events. This early work exemplifies his desire to capture the world in images. The artist searches for places with a symbolic quality, for instance in his large-format stock-exchange photographs in which he focuses on presenting the tension between the human crowd and the macrostructures of the civilized world. Likewise, anthropologist Marc Augé seems to have microstructures such as cash machines, ticket machines and the like in mind when he talks of "non-places” in which the subject becomes isolated in the midst of comfort: "The space of the non-place liberates the person that enters it from what normally defines him. He is only what he does or experiences as a ssenger, customer or car driver.” Paris was the capital of the 19th century (in the 21st century it is the slum). Living in today’s global city means being mobile and all of us have set out on a journey. But the question is whether "Nowhere Man” is on his way home as usual or are we really traveling somewhere? What is certain: though today the term "destination” is often used to describe places not only do they seem to have ceased to offer experience they also lack their destination quality. We are lost in transit.
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