Michael Reisch

About: Ohne Titel (Untitled), production process — something and nothing

In a camera-less process, I start with generating black and white lines and curves from within a chosen computer software programme (a common photo-editing-software). I provoke optical illusions and interferences to occur, so that my images become recognisable as “things”, as if something was there – with a layered, stratified or folded character, for example. These generated optical illusions, the “things” meant to be seen, are then materialised – i.e. I imagine how these might look as real, physically existing objects, and recreate them using computer-aided design programs as virtual 3D-objects. I store them as data-files and afterwards 3D-print them as “real“, material objects (in a range of 3D-printable materials).

In a next working step the generated and materialised objects/entities are photographed in a photo studio, in a documentary sense. I understand the final images as photographs of “motifs/subjects”, that in some way do exist – since they are 3D-printed and exist in material form – and that on the other hand do not exist – since they are based on optical illusion and have no starting point in the “real world”.

Instead of starting from the material world, from existing facts and turning it into information and data – like traditional photography mostly does – I reverse this conventional direction of “photography”. Starting from the operational substructure of digital photography, its own tools, I turn immaterial data and algorithms to factual and thus touchable and “photographable” objects, to again transform these objects into data (photos) and images (and so on in next working steps). The concept of recording as constitutive for photography for me functions in both directions, the photos record the 3D-printed objects, but also I understand the printed 3D-objects as “material photos”, as material recordings of the images.

What interests me here, amongst others, are the concepts of “something” and “nothing”, especially on the backdrop of photography and the digital realm. When do we (with our human eyes) consider something to be there, and under what circumstances? In a traditional sense, above all photography was meant to document and approve the existence of a subject matter, of “something”. Which role does the medium of photography play under digital conditions, when “existence”, “something being there”, can be generated from “nothing”, and when this “something” is at any time reversible and transformable (if it appears as code or as a representation of code, for example as a digitally constituted image)? What about the transformations from material to image to material in this regard?

I would like to add, that all working steps during the process are interactions between the possibilities and automatic qualities of the apparatus, of the machinic systems and algorithms, and my–human–subjective, aesthetic decisions. I am steering the machine’s and algorithm’s “proposals”, feeding the so received results back again to the apparatus, the apparatus sends its updated “proposals” back to me, and so on, vice-versa.

The entire process of creation is generative and evolutionary, different generations of images and of “objects/entities” develop out of each other, creating new generations. For example, some of my photos and objects are 3D-scanned and appear transformed as videos or as prints. Also I photographed all my 3D-printed objects, and used them as dataset to train a GAN (AI), which then generates pictures of new objects/entities, that are again 3D-printed, again photographed, and so on.

Once derived from a primary photo-editing tool, the generations are growing into an increasingly complex system of interrelated “appearances”, through superposition and intertwining of recordings and renderings, of generative and documentary working methods, of “traditionally photographic” and the new, digitally constituted tools.

(Michael Reisch, 2021)