jpeg pt02, 2006
247 x 186 cm
Image © Thomas Ruff
With his latest, again large-format, photographic works in the jpegs series, Thomas Ruff continues his well-known interest in the mechanical production and processing of images.
Here Ruff experiments with the image file compression format of the same name, which was named after the 'Joint Photographic Experts Group', which developed this method for compressing image files in September 1992. The jpeg format is used in particular for the preparation and optimization of digital images for display on the computer screen and for distribution via the Internet. In order to minimize the amount of data, all information which monitors working with comparatively low resolution do not need for realistic reproduction is discarded. In addition, the remaining data of the image units are stored in groups.
Just like the computer monitor, the human eye only requires a relatively small amount of information per image unit, the rest necessary for recognition is supplemented by the brain's visual centre during interpretation. Ruff concentrates on this certain blurriness in this series.
The compression process, which is based on rasterization, results in visible pixel lines in the strong magnification of the jpegs that Ruff makes, and the display in a "checkerboard pattern". The effects of reducing digital images, the irretrievable loss of information, thus become visible.
As already claimed for earlier series, for example the nudes or Substrate, Ruff finds the motifs of the jpegs mostly on the Internet. His selection from the visual world of our everyday life opens up an encyclopedic archive, a kind of pictorial lexicon of contemporary history. The use of found material gives the group of images a factual, almost documentary character. The seemingly objective depiction of the real contrasts all the more sharply with the way it is depicted. Appearance and content fall apart, they overlap as irreconcilable levels. By dissolving the motifs beyond recognition, Ruff cuts off their connection to reality. With scepticism about their truth content, Ruff manipulates the images or our perception. He reveals the degeneration of the images surrounding us as well as our conditioning by today's image distribution media, which culminates in our willingness to regard barely legible, blurred images as particularly authentic.