Thomas Ruff’s ma.r.s. Series
German photographer Thomas Ruff’s most recent work continues his practice of appropriating photographic imagery. Whether it be Ruff’s Jpegs series, which saw the artist blowing up low-res web-scavenged images to grand, pixelated scale or his use of pornographic imagery, his art has little to do with the physical act of taking a picture. The artist himself has noted that he has not taken a photograph in a “very, very long time.” In his series ma.r.s., the images are sourced from black-and-white satellite photographs of the surface of Mars, taken by high-resolution cameras aboard NASA spacecraft (“ma.r.s.” stands for “Mars Reconnaissance Survey”). While Ruff’s manipulated images have the effect of being authentic scientific observations, the artist has added the colour himself. After downloading the pictures from NASA’s website, Ruff digitally altered the images, changed the perspective, and added colour. The resulting chromogenic prints transform the originals into large visual statements that are at once documentary and fictional. The original images are typically studied by scientists to better understand the planet’s geology and to scout potential landing sites for future visits.
"In thinking of NASA pictures, everybody has in mind the fantastic photographs of intergalactic mist or stellar clusters made by the Hubble Space Telescope. In fact, colour is very common in astronomical photography. That has driven us to a very multicoloured conception of the universe… (laughs). But colours in space are relative. The various kinds of light as we see them are only a very small portion of the diversity of electromagnetic waves that exist in space. In colouring the Mars photographs, I sometimes used scientific references, and sometimes my imagination." - Thomas Ruff on the ma.r.s. series