5B4 - Photography, Photobooks, Printed Matter

Interieurs by Thomas Ruff

Looking through Thomas Ruff’s newest book Interieurs one immediately senses two things; the first is Ruff’s precision in framing the interiors of Black forest German houses and the precision in the arrangement of furniture and decor of those interiors that he is photographing. Whether found as such or rearranged by his hand before releasing the shutter, everything seems so devoid of human presence yet there seems to be the intent to capture something of the occupant’s character, the person that can be sensed who constructed such spaces. These still lives look like some found set piece calling so soundly into the past, that they feel abandoned.

Made in the late 1970s and early 80s they both seduce and repel the viewer with their round-cornered and clunky furniture, warm wooden tones, kitschy drapery, vulgar mustard hues, and attempts by the wallpaper to lighten the heavy atmosphere. Ruff, born just a few years before the construction of the Berlin wall commenced, is one of many artists of the post-war generation who are looking at their surroundings, their history, with a critical eye. Even though these are the interiors of the houses of family friends and neighbors it is hard for me not to see these pictures as a kind of personal protest against the past, the lives and choices of earlier generations.

It is always debatable whether or not people arrange their homes to truly make practical and personal use of what they own or whether they do so more for the visitors they occasionally entertain. How are others see and perceive how our lives can be all consuming. I sense from these photographs the occupants considered both and that the almost imperceptible arc of a loosed human hair which has come to rest on the sink edge near the bar of candy-striped soap – that tiny bit of proof of the human body­ – does not belong.