Thomas Struth

Storage, Charité, Berlin 2015 (2015)

To the art historian’s eye, the motif of Thomas Struth’s edition for Texte zur Kunst is not unfamiliar: a cramped, low-ceilinged room crammed with tables on which empty glass vessels coated in a fine layer of gray dust are stacked, a spare wooden chair, a small stove or cupboard in the background – every element evocative of the traditional image of an artist’s studio. But these tubes and containers were in fact used to preserve tissue samples; the room pictured, a storage room in the basement of a Charité hospital building in central Berlin. Today, the structure, which dates from the turn of the century, accommodates the Berlin Museum of Medical History. In exploring the Charité – the institution makes several appearances in his work – Struth was especially interested in the hospital as a site of scientific and technological innovation; a place where the future is being made. Another photograph, taken in 2012, shows a surgical robot in operation. In the present image, by contrast, Struth adopts the opposite perspective, training his lens not on cutting-edge medicine but on the things it has carelessly decommissioned. What is stored away in this room is doubly obsolete in a technical sense. Yet such neglect brings out its peculiar value: the value of the forgotten object, which the artist renders in a meticulously composed tableau – the caustic acuity of the camera’s gaze cancels any suggestion of mythologization. What thus becomes apparent in Struth’s edition is an impulse to momentarily halt in light of rapid progress and to contemplate its scenes; the need to draw a frame around the “innovations” of the past as well as the present, so as to lend them the crystalline clarity of an uncannily familiar composition.

Injekt print, 31.9 x 40.5 cm, edition: 80 + 20 A.P., numbered and signed on the back, € 690.- plus shipping.