Zurich

Daniele Buetti, Oh Boy Oh Boy VI, 2011, ink-jet print covered with laser-contour-cut acrylic glass,70 7/8 x 55 1/8". From the series “Oh Boy Oh Boy,” 2008–.

Daniele Buetti, Oh Boy Oh Boy VI, 2011, ink-jet print covered with laser-contour-cut acrylic glass,70 7/8 x 55 1/8". From the series “Oh Boy Oh Boy,” 2008–.

Daniele Buetti

Galerie Nicola von Senger

Daniele Buetti, Oh Boy Oh Boy VI, 2011, ink-jet print covered with laser-contour-cut acrylic glass,70 7/8 x 55 1/8". From the series “Oh Boy Oh Boy,” 2008–.

Daniele Buetti’s images first strike the viewer as colorful, bright, and playfully burlesque. They seem like shiny high-tech hybrids of ancient mosaics, stained-glass windows, and puzzles, in whose surfaces viewers find themselves reflected under the gallery’s fluorescent lights. Rich colors and dynamic lines create a festive atmosphere, and the delicate honeycomb structure that covers many sections of the pictures is reminiscent of the fractured surface of a disco ball. This first seductive feeling can last a long moment, triggering a purely formalist fascination with the interplay of abstract passages and the groups of human figures who also populate these images. So much greater then is the shock that breaks the initial enjoyment when we look more closely and realize the figures are victims of torture or other physical abuse. Several of their postures we know only too well: They come from the amateur photographs taken by American soldiers of their tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. The abused, bound, naked bodies in standing or crouching positions are here shown as exposed organic outlines, trapped in a net of abstract planes. Shocking as it is to realize, these horrifying pictures have lost the power to disturb the comfortable progression of our daily lives: We can become indifferent toward even the most appalling news when it is neutralized through repetition. And as images like the voyeuristic snapshots of Abu Ghraib move from semiprivate circulation into the public realm, is our eventual indifference really so distinct from the indifference that allows someone to participate in torture and degradation? Buetti’s recontextualization of such pictures works against the daily act of forgetting that results from this continual exposure.

To create this series, “Oh Boy Oh Boy,” 2008– , Buetti designed templates on a computer, which were then cut from acrylic glass by a laser into individual color fields. These pieces were fitted precisely back together to form the large final images. This laborious, quasi-old-masterly technique, executed with the newest technology, contributes significantly to the inherent fragmentation of each piece’s meaning. Beauty becomes a mask that highlights the horror instead of veiling it. Buetti continues to surprise us with his unique combination of new and old forms of image production. His methods often derive from photographic processes, but never become simply a formal goal in and of themselves, or a display of mere technique. The finely meshed honeycomb structure that often overlays bodies and spaces is reminiscent not only of stained-glass windows but also of pixels, the basic unit that makes possible the unlimited manipulation and distribution of images. Ultimately, a decisive break with established media conventions occurs: The widespread availability of the electronic image is elevated and converted into something original, and the dignity of this act is also conferred on the victims of torture.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Anne Posten.