A Close Up of a Large Rock, I Think

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Kodoji Press, 2021. First edition.
102 color and black & white illustrations, 240 x 320 mm. Photographs by Sebastian Stadler. Texts by Marco Poloni and Nadia Veronese (English).

Shortlisted for the 2021 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Photobook of the Year Award

Sebastian Stadler’s book work A CLOSE UP OF A LARGE ROCK, I THINK. combines the artist’s photographic work L’apparition, 2015–2019 with text generated by image-recognition software. Each of the images, whether single or in a series, is a double exposure composition: a relatively generic scene or location is merged with a digital texture or surface. This combination sometimes punctures the image; on occasion it barely makes the viewer aware of the artifice of the reproduction. 

The photographs are combined with two forms of text: either a tentative description, like the book title, or what reads like an unmoored quotation. Both have been generated or sourced by an image-recognition algorithm that Stadler has employed in other works; this has been fed the images of L’apparation. The algorithm first presents its findings with the modest addendum ‘I think’. In a second step this has been cross-referenced with a huge text database, the Project Gutenberg digital library, in order to source unrelated quotations that accord with the image content identified. A screen-printed mylar cover around the publication further articulates the image-layering process. The book is printed on paper that is ultra-high gloss on one side and uncoated on the other. Not all pages have been cut, most remain closed with perforated edges; the book’s edit takes into consideration both surfaces of the paper, as depending on how the book’s signatures are bound, more matt or more gloss becomes visible leafing through. The closed pages hide other images and quotes waiting to be discovered. 

The publication was created in conjunction with Stadler’s Manor Prize-winning exhibition at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, curated by Nadia Veronese, which is also documented. Veronese contributes one text collating all the works shown in the exhibition, with a second on L’apparition by Marco Poloni. Through the different forms of text and images, the book is a reflection on how what we see has evolved as image technologies have developed, and a look to a future ever more influenced by algorithms. In Poloni’s words ‘Stadler produces projections of the world that bring forth its thingness and dispense altogether with semiotic processes, that is, with the production of meaning through the bias of interpretation.’

Sebastian Stadler (Swiss and Finnish) was born in 1988 and lives in Zurich. He studied photography at the Zurich University of Arts (ZHdK) and the University of Arts in Lausanne (ECAL). His work has been exhibited internationally, with solo exhibitions in Switzerland at institutions such as the Photoforum PasquArt in Biel or Kunstmuseum St. Gallen. Stadler has been the winner of awards including the Swiss Art Award (2013), the grant of the Canton of Thurgau (2017) and the Manor Art Prize (2019). 

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