By Louis Perreault
In the first photograph in Alpine Signals, the immaculate white of a horse’s mane offers a reminder of the clouds that overhang the distant mountains. The blue sky spreads above the shrubs positioned in the centre of the composition, which pick up the colour of the verdant nature in the valleys. However, in this image from Thomas Kneubühler’s most recent book1 rises, triumphantly, a cellular network tower that reverberates strongly with the very first sentence of W. J. T. Mitchell’s celebrated Landscape and Power: “The aim of this book is to change ‘landscape’ from a noun to a verb.”2
So, it is a series of landscapes that awaits us in this book. The subtitle gives us a clue, and the images confirm it: the typology rarely lends itself to ambiguity. Each of the twenty-six photographs offers the reader an alternative to the picturesque images often associated with the Swiss Alps. Kneubühler’s perspective is clear: the sites chosen as subjects of the photographs, although framed in such a way as to provide the reader with a certain aesthetic experience, are not those in which we would want to lose ourselves in contemplation. On the contrary, Kneubühler asks us to leave the image in order to reflect on the issues of digital communications. His work uncovers, in a way, the invisible stitches in the social fabric, weaving links between nature and culture in order to underline their inseparability. The landscapes, here, are verbs conjugating the conditions necessary for human beings to cope with a hyper-connected world.
The neutral afternoon light that dominates many images in the book, along with the precise, clean details that compose Kneubühler’s photographic style, imposes a descriptive character on these photographs, captured in the alpine region of Engadin, between the borders with Italy and Austria.
Translated by Käthe Roth.
2 « The aim of this book is to change “landscape” from a noun to a verb. », W.J.T. Mitchell, Landscape and Power, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, deuxième édition, 2002.
[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 119 – AGAINST NATURE ]
[ Complete article and more images, in digital version, available here: Thomas Kneubühler, Alpine Signals — Louis Perreault, Without Data Loss ]