Zurich

Claudio Moser

Galerie Bob van Orsouw

In every respect, Claudio Moser's works deal with transition zones. The motifs of his large-format photographs define a poetics of non-sites that couldn't be less spectacular. Where the city peters out, where civilization meets nature, Moser records lattice fences, smashed-in windows, and scaffolding. He isolates individual moments from the experiential continuum of a pedestrian wandering along the city's edge, but without adopting the stance of a social documentarian. Rather, he combines formal concerns—the frontality of the structuring lattices and branches seems to hold the observer's gaze in the foreground—with a genuinely photographic sense of contingency. This accidental quality validates and monumentalizes casual observations, lending them a certain lyricism or a soberly atmospheric density. The photographer's gaze is guided by an unselfconscious eye and loses itself in prosaic details: the gleam of an orange neon tube, the fine branchings of a thicket. Through the use of ink-jet printing, Moser reinforces the already confusing light conditions and creates a dissolving, washed-out color scheme, giving the images a painterly quality. The referential relationship between photography and external reality is thus weakened At the same time, his photographic works invariably function as ensembles, as in this exhibition, “Nowhere near far enough.”

The individual images are just a selection from Moser's urban archives, which contain records of the most varied walks through cities ranging from New York to Basel. It is precisely through the union of geographically disparate places that an itinerary of imaginary walks can develop. Strikingly, the exhibited works all thematize seeing itself. Most oscillate between interior and exterior and near and far views, since the grids in the foreground cause a layering of the spatial structure while at the same time covering and obscuring what lies in the background. All told, there is very little to see: say, an electronics store lit up at night, a parking lot, or a construction site with containers. In one image, a piece of minimalist concrete architecture blocks the view almost entirely, while a cloudy sky that looks like a snowy rounded hilltop allows a view of nature's nearly endless horizon.

The thematic grouping of individual images into a new, higher unity corresponds to Moser's tendency to publish his photographic works in book form. Leafing through Valerie, 2000, his third artist's book, reveals a layering of formal and motif-driven orders in the manner of a film sequence. Its title refers to a 1980 song by the Distractions. The emphasis is less on the individual images than on their recontextualization: Black-and-white and color photographs appear in irregular intervals, and an epic breadth develops that suggests a narrative. The nearly total lack of protagonists creates an empty spot that can be filled only by the viewer, who thus becomes part of the story. This elusive sense of narrative is comparable to what we experience with music, whose sounds intend as little as Moser's photographs to designate or fix some definite meaning.

Philipp Kaiser

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.