One of Spain’s most prominent artists, Joan Fontcuberta is best-known for his exploration of the intersection between art, science, and illusion. In Landscapes without Memory, an exhibition of forty large-scale works made between 2002 and 2005, Fontcuberta harnesses a piece of landscape-rendering computer software designed for the military, which creates photo-realistic three-dimensional models based on two-dimensional sources. For his Landscapes of Landscapes series, the focus of the Aperture exhibition, Fontcuberta feeds the software images of famous paintings and photographs by Turner, Cézanne, Rothko, and Carleton E. Watkins, among others, forcing the program to interpret the landscape masterworks as “real.” The contours and tones of the pictures are transformed into three-dimensional mountains, rivers, valleys, and clouds—baroque, fantastical landscapes void of human existence that tap into our desire for unattainable paradise. Thumbnails of the original images are shown next to Fontcuberta’s work.
Through his artistic process, Fontcuberta creates new landscapes that, despite their “postcard perfect” resonance, are purely fictional and can never be experienced in nature. The result is “landscapes without memory.” It is this exploration of the artificial and the natural, the imaginary and the perceived, that Fontcuberta brings to the art of photography. As a conceptual artist, he questions the boundaries of the medium and its iconic status as the presenter of unquestionable truth. Landscapes without Memory is accompanied by a book of the same title recently published by Aperture, which also presents the series, Bodyscapes, in which the artist uses the same software to reinterpret photographs of his own body parts.