Wavepool – Your new project, I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before, is very much in line with your previous work but seems a bit more specific in the references it makes. Was the working process different in any way?
Thomas Albdorf – Do you think it’s that much in line? There are indeed specific image clichés I’m addressing that I used before, but I had the feeling that, in earlier series, I talked more about sculpture-through-image possibilities of the photographic process, whereas within I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before I’m using named clichés and structures as base material. Before that series, people sometimes asked me if my works are sculptures or photographs of sculptures, and I had to tell them that neither are correct, that my works are solely images rooted in photography. I Know I Will See was also a try to depart from that – to use common picture conventions as, so to say, sculptural base material rather than objects.
Anyway, the working process was different insofar as, for the first time, I created a series with a specific goal in mind – contextualizing everything within a photobook. Before that, I mainly worked without a precise idea regarding the final form, and just decided at a certain point that the material I collected would now suffice to be published on the web, be printed for an exhibition, etc.
Wavepool – I agree that this work has new ideas in play, but I see a lot of ties to previous imagery. Why did the change in approach happen and was it a positive change of pace for you?
Thomas Albdorf – It was positive insofar as I am very happy with the final result, but to get to this point took me some time and pain. I had the feeling that I had to depart from my very single-image-based practice that was mainly informed by my tumblr-ing and, back then, flickr-ing towards an approach that weighed various types of images against each other without the necessary aim to communicate all aspects important to me within a few single works. I also underwent a few huge shifts in my personal life that made me reconsider if I should continue to work on my art, mostly due to financial reasons. Gladly I’m past that now.
Wavepool – What types of images are new additions to your practice?
Thomas Albdorf – I started to appropriate found images, partially reconstructed via digital or analogue means, partially cropped or simply as I found them. I used more conventional, unaltered photographic works to test how they would function with staged and heavily photoshopped imagery. In general, I think during the process of creating all the images contained within the publication, I started to embrace the pixelated JPEG, the blurred scan, the rasterized blow-up, the poor photographic image – I started to perceive those aspects as almost similar, and worth discussing, to the visible digital interventions I used within earlier series such as Former Writer.
Wavepool – We’ve yet to discuss the significance of the mountains as a motif in the work. Can you elaborate on its value?
Thomas Albdorf – I wanted to take a closer look at how my homeland Austria is constructed and constituted within a common image space. The concept of mountains, of an alpine landscape that functions as surface for multiple projections is prevalent; be it within the classic 1960s Heimatfilm, advertising, or political propaganda.
I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before aims towards reconstructing and abstracting this mountainous visual space via the methods of image production I named before. The works depart from their indexical referents, creating possibilities to become different images. One mountain can signify a different mountain, clouds can be petrified, water can become dust.
Before I started the series, I was stumbling upon a vintage book about the Austrian alpine landscape with tremendous imagery. I wanted to interrogate my fascination with this partially very kitschy photographic prints, so I thought “Mountains – why not?”. It just seemed very logical – everybody knows images of mountains, everybody has a pre-rendered idea, so I wanted to play with these expectations, bend them, test them.
Wavepool – Can you tell me about the title and how it came to be?
Thomas Albdorf – Really into that part of how everything came together … when I sent the first images towards Lodret Vandret and explained what I wanted to do, we talked about the series’ origins and sources, and Flemming Ove Bech immediately brought up The Sound of Music. Albeit I did a video-installation with fragments of the movie years ago, it wasn’t consciously on my radar for the series back then – maybe because it is a rather unique perspective towards a kitsch-rendering of Austria, a very specific “Heimatfilm” created out of Hollywood rather than from within Austria or Germany.
We than went back and forth with potential titles … one day Flemming sent a mail with a few, also bringing up that part of the opening song The Hills Are Alive where Julie Andrews sings “I know I will hear what I’ve heard before“, and Flemming altered it into “I know I will see what I’ve seen before“ and I was like “DAMN” … it just really summed up many important aspects of the series – image repetition, known conventions (and their deconstruction). So we just went with it.
I also have to talk about the Blackletter I used for the cover … the versions I looked into called “Fraktur“ were often present on movie-posters of the Austrian-german movie genre called Heimatfilm I mentioned before – although these fonts are often associated with the Nazis, whereas they abandoned the fonts in the early forties due to simple practicality – no one outside Austria and Germany could read it immediately. I definitely wanted to go for Fraktur for the cover, but didn’t feel too comfortable with it … so I tried to apply similar techniques abundant within my images towards the fonts – I build it up from scratch based on given aesthetics and typefaces, but left it raw and vectorized to reveal its artificial nature, its falsehood and constructedness.
Wavepool – You recently had a solo show of the project. How did the exhibition compare to the book experience?
Thomas Albdorf – Max Marshall, the man behind The Latent Image and DELI Gallery, approached me with the idea of installing a solo show during the NY Art Book Fair, so we took the book as a guideline, trying to translate its main aspects into the given gallery space. Max started with a PDF and from then on, very similar to how Lodret Vandret and me arranged the book, we moved image files in an Indesign file that resembled the gallery wall’s aspect ratios. As for the factual experience, I only saw the exhibition mediated via RAWs / JPEGs and video. Unseen Amsterdam was happening the very same weekend as the NY Art Book Fair, so I had to make a decision (as I was also present at Unseen with my gallery) and I travelled to the Netherlands.
It was a very weird and partially sad experience to ship all my prints to the US, knowing that I’ll never see the installation, but it also brought to me the maybe most emotional social media moment of 2015: when I was heading home from Unseen Friday night (slightly drunk), I briefly facebook-messaged Max Marshall to check if everything was alright (as, at this time, the show just opened in NY). I immediately received a video call, and Max took me around, showing me the crowded room with so many artists whose work I admire who made the effort to stop by and have a look. I was beyond stoked. Hooray for the Internet.
To see more, please visit Thomas’ website.