The duo Cortis & Sonderegger have become reputed over the years for their studio recreations of existing photos. With each one, the two Zurich-based artists meticulously construct a small-scale model of the scene appearing in the photograph, precisely adjusting the lighting to conform to the original and using an identical angle, but taking care to make their efforts for its recreation apparent. Their photographs are not illusionist; they are artifice, rather than simulacrum. They don’t perpetuate confusion between original and copy, but show that all photos, including snapshots, are constructions that can be subject to a “making of”, so to speak.
Commissioning them for a tutorial was a way of amusingly tackling the question of false photographic transparency, using the updated model of photographic recreations that emerged in the late 19th century. Up to now, Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger focused on icons of history and the history of photography, from View from the Window at Le Gras by Nicéphore Niépce to the column of tanks blocked by a protestor on Tiananmen Square by Stuart Franklin. Recently, they added another layer to their exploration of images by recreating a recreation: they took as their subject Büro (1995), a work by Thomas Demand that uses paper and cardboard to recreate a press photo showing the inside of a Stasi office after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This ultimate mise en abyme, Making of “Büro” (by Thomas Demand, 1995) , is the work the duo agreed to present – and I dare say, the surprises don’t end there.
Text: Étienne Hatt