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For several years Monica Ursina Jäger has been drawing built and natural landscapes inspired by Modernist-style architecture. Her precise works, using media including ink and pigment transfers, combine hope and downfall: on one hand designers’ aspirations, and fantasies, for the future; on the other the dystopia of failure. In creating these works Jäger has assembled a huge stock of images of buildings and environments, both her own photographs and images found in print and online, including rendered as well as completed constructions. ‘Topographies’, which is created in collaboration with Winfried Heininger, consists of one, extremely long, accordion-folded image created from hundreds of collaged images from this working archive.
‘Topographies’ reproduces the nearly 12 meter long collage one-to-one. The reader can turn the pages to follow the image, as if with a filmic tracking shot, or they can open the publication to its full extent and examine it in a less linear fashion. Whichever way they view it, the route is through man-made, forested and barren landscapes, some sites iconic, some prototypical, with an emphasis on the architectural ambitions of the 1960s. Our viewpoint moves from afar, to close up, the scenes largely in black and white with accents of colour that emphasise the chill of the dystopian environments. With few signs of human life, Jäger captures the temporality of the most solid concrete and steel buildings. Like the fictional visions of Cormac McCarthy, this could be a past we have escaped or a future we would like to avoid.
Another landscape running along the back of the image that also frames the collage complements Jäger’s: a dazzle pattern. Dazzle is a form of camouflage used principally in World War I that works on the principle of applying a bold graphic pattern to an object so that discerning its contours becomes difficult, particularly when the object is in motion. The pattern used for ‘Topographies’ was created by recording forms generated by applying such a pattern to a fictional, rendered landscape. The result is a structure that is impossible to read, which irritates the eye. Bleeding over onto the front of the image, it is one of several factors that destabilise the reading of the landscape. Jäger’s environment is a montage of proximities that become increasingly unlikely the more one observes, while the dazzle pattern echoes this narrative incongruity in visual form.
A beautifully presented slipcased Leporello fold book.