Art I 30.04.15 I by

Thomas Struth photographs the inner-workings of NASA research centres

Thomas-Struth-Z-Pinch-Plasma-Lab
‘Z-Pinch Plasma Lab, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, 2011’, by Thomas Struth. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Scientific research centres read like manmade jungles in the photographs of Thomas Struth. ‘You can’t make sense of them but you can read the atmosphere,’ says the German artist of the works at London’s Marian Goodman Gallery. ‘There’s an intensity and violence to them.’

Pipes and wires entangle themselves in photographs like ‘Epitaxy, JPL, Pasadena’. Your eyes get lost in the thicket, recalling the natural vegetation in his jungle works from the 1990s.

Taken at NASA research centres in the US and Israel’s Weizmann Institute – the six new scientific works are part of a lesser-known but ongoing series by Struth. At Marian Goodman Gallery, they’re offset by politically-charged scenes from Israel and Palestine – vast panoramic works with extreme detail.

Silwan, East Jerusalem, by Thomas Struth
‘Silwan, East Jerusalem, 2009’, by Thomas Struth. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

It’s a curious pairing at first sight but the two series are linked by the idea of ‘obsession’, says the artist, something that compels engineers to create highly sophisticated machinery but also drives Palestinians and Israelis to fight over land.

Despite the undercurrent, there’s something strangely beautiful about the machinery he shoots. Scientists told Struth that they could even spot the varied cabling styles of their engineers. ‘You can see evidence of human expression,’ he says. ‘I see them as sculptures.’

The Thomas Struth exhibition runs from 30 April to 6 June 2015 at Marian Goodman Gallery, 5-8 Lower John Street, London W1.

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