Exhibition: ‘Joan Fontcuberta: Landscapes without Memory’ at Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2010 – 27th February 2010


Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Derain' 2004


Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Derain
© Joan Fontcuberta



It might be useful to know the meaning and application of the word ‘orogenesis’ in relation to the work of Fontcuberta.


Orogeny refers to forces and events leading to a severe structural deformation of the Earth’s crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates. Response to such engagement results in the formation of long tracts of highly deformed rock called orogens or orogenic belts. The word “orogeny” comes from the Greek (oros for “mountain” plus genesis for “creation” or “origin”), and it is the primary mechanism by which mountains are built on continents. Orogens develop while a continental plate is crumpled and thickened to form mountain ranges, and involve a great range of geological processes collectively called orogenesis

An orogenic event may be studied as (a) a tectonic structural event, (b) as a geographical event, and (c) a chronological event. Orogenic events (a) cause distinctive structural phenomena related to tectonic activity, (b) affect rocks and crust in particular regions, and (c) happen within a specific period of time.” (Wikipedia)


In his post-landscape, post-memory worlds constructed by computer technologies there are mediated memories present – of the original paintings, shifting and reinterpreted by the computer and of place interpreted by the original artist – that form a simulated memory of double amnesia. Orogensis is a perfect title for these works as they map such a double memory over time in an future anterior (the death of the past (this has been) and the present (this will have be), pace Barthes); the word and the works also closely align to the word erogenous for these images stimulate the senses and heighten our appreciation and personal memory of the constructed environment. And how beautiful they are!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Foam Fotografiemuseum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Kandinsky' 2004


Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Kandinsky
© Joan Fontcuberta


Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Pollock' 2002


Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Pollock
© Joan Fontcuberta



For the project Landscapes without Memory Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta (b. 1955, Barcelona) used software developed by the US Air Force. It translates two-dimensional cartographic data into a simulated three-dimensional image. Instead of feeding maps into the software, in Landscapes without Memory Fontcuberta inserts painted landscapes: from Gauguin to Van Gogh, from Cezanne to Turner and Constable. The software translates them into new, virtual landscapes that Fontcuberta calls ‘post-landscapes’. They form a no-man’s land between the virtual and the real, between truth and illusion.

Ever since the medium was first invented, photography’s relationship with the real world has been as perplexing as it is fascinating. Far more than a medium such as paint, photography was supposed to have a certain level of truth. In recent decades in particular the idea has taken root that truth and reality are ambiguous concepts in photography. The unprecedented digital revolution has brought the potential for manipulation into focus. How much more reliable is the photographic image of the real world? Who and what can we still believe? This juxtaposition of illusion and reality lies at the heart of Spanish artist Joan Fontcuberta’s oeuvre. At the same time, he also refers to the connection between science and truth. Like photography (itself a product of science), we see science as a way of expanding our knowledge of the real world using rational, objective, verifiable methods. Science has a certain authority: what science proves is true. Fontcuberta turns the myth of scientific authority around and manages to persuade the public in many of his projects of the veracity of a purely fictitious narrative – simply by expressing himself in the language of science.

In recent years, Fontcuberta has been especially fascinated by the influence of the digital revolution on the way we communicate and on our use of image. Landscapes without Memory is one such project. He begins here by subjectively interpreting and portraying a landscape, and then using software to interpret and translate the artificial object. The result is a new reality which Foncuberta calls ‘technologically-defined contemporary hallucinations’.

This exhibition is part of the Life Like platform, a project launched by Foam, EYE Film Institute of the Netherlands and Van Gogh Museum to draw attention to the realist art movement. The three museums join forces from 8 October 2010 to 16 January 2011 to throw light on the different aspects of this multi-disciplinary movement.

Press release from the Foam website


Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Le Gray' 2004


Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Le Gray
© Joan Fontcuberta


Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Turner' 2003


Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Turner
© Joan Fontcuberta


Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Weston' 2004


Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Weston
© Joan Fontcuberta



Foam Fotografiemuseum
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0)20 551 6500

Opening hours:
Mon – Wed 10am – 6pm
Thu – Fri 10am – 9pm
Sat – Sun 10am – 6pm

Foam website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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