About Utz


The works in this exhibition pursue two mutually interdependent lines of investigation: one is the obsolescent and the other is auratic. At once fascinated and troubled by the disappearance of analogue photo technologies, Blaufuks revisits them at different stages throughout the historical evolution of photography, in order to determine to what extent they now possess, if any, aura– and those things that underpin it, i.e., authenticity. While referencing a whole host of historic and modernist figures from Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the 18th century Frenchman credited with the production of the first photograph, to Man Ray, the technologies used by Blaufuks range from the cyanotype to polaroid as well as video, some of which are bona fide, such as his use of old polaroid stock, while others are patently counterfeit, such as his variously manipulated cyanotype (here provocatively denatured into outsized digital prints). In more or less every instance, the goal revolves around specific questions of aura and obsolescence. For in the artist’s estimation of things, it could almost be read as a kind of equation: the existence of aura is virtually proportionate to how obsolete the technology is. I say virtually because this is as much a hypothesis as it is an assertion. One intuits that Blaufuks acts almost like a scientist here – granted a scientist with a conspicuous agenda, but one who is sufficiently disinterested to allow that agenda to be challenged by the results of his research.

This assertion-cum-hypothesis is naturally undermined and confirmed by two forms of awareness: one is a simple nostalgia (older is better, somehow more real) and the second is more of the order of paradox. As originally observed by Benjamin, the fact of authenticity and the aura associated with it does not arise ex-nihilo, by itself, but is engendered by the existence of the copy. Therefore, despite all appearances, aura is not necessarily intrinsic to the unique object, but comes after the fact, is retroactively attributed by the existence of copies, fakes and ersatz. Thus it could be said that the auratic original and its counterfeit copy exist in relation to one another almost in the way that morality and transgression exist in relation to one another. And it is just such a relation that permits Blaufuks to consider a technology (analogue photography, reproduction), which was, for Benjamin, the counterfeit half of aura, the culprit, the guilty party of the equation, in totally unorthodox auratic terms. Even by Benjamin’s understanding of the equation: aura does not necessarily issue from the old, but from the new. Paradoxically enough, the new is as much an engenderer as it is a killer of aura. Which is to say that the unlimited and placeless copy of a given digital image confers a relative aura upon the locatable, and comparatively limited existence of the analogue reproduction.

These assertions and questions bring up a whole host of others, questions that cannot (and perhaps should not?) be answered here. For instance, why is originality still so important? Why does it, like authenticity, still have such a hold on the imagination? And, therefore, why are we still so attached to the existence of aura? Or is it the existence of aura that is attached to us? All these and more are some of the questions asked by this exhibition.

Chris Sharp