[ISEA2011] Paper: Ingrid Holzl & Remi Marie – CODEC: On Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs


Through a close analysis of Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs series, we will explore the JPEG codec as the new paradigm of the digital image. Trained with Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ruff is one of the leading figures in contemporary photography. For his JPEGs series, he took his own images and digital photographs from the web and compressed them using the maximum rate; he then decompressed them into large-scale prints. This method exposes the mathematical infra-structure of the digital image, the pixel blocks into which the image is split during the compression process. We will trace the passage from archive to archetype at play here, the double meaning of taking an image from the web or from the wide world, and the possible return of beauty as a means of societal reconciliation. We posit that JPEG compression calls for a new conception of photography in which the perspectival projection gives way to the mathematical abstraction of the numerical tableau.

  • Dr. Ingrid Holzl has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, and has just taken up a new position as a postdoctoral research fellow in Media Aesthetics at the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo. Her current research interests centre on the new modes and temporalities of the photographic image due to digital postproduction and screening. She is the author of several articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Photographies, History of Photography, and Intermedialites, and of a monograph on the theory of photographic self-portraiture (München: Fink 2008).
  •  Remi Marie  [ISEA2011 provided no biographical information]