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Dead Troops Talk (Wall, Jeff), 1992

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appeal against the classical compositional pattern of art and reflects media-related similarities between photography, painting, and film. His images of everyday and, at first glance, thoroughly unspectacular scenes are usually presented in monumental formats as cibachrome slide positives in back-lit display cases. By way of photography, Wall presents himself as a ‹painter of modern life›, who produces seemingly trivial scenes in which he engages art-historical themes and social questions to equal degrees. While referring to the realism of Eduard Manet in particular, and to the nineteenth century in general, he replaces painting, as a medium of realism, with photography – thus declaring it a so-called Painting of the Present. Wall’s realism excludes all the coincidence inherent to photography’s photographic procedure. The images are construed down to the last detail and nothing is left to chance. Unlike with documentary photography, which waits for the decisive moment and invariably records additional arrangements, Wall devotes himself to the tradition of realism as a displaying of the exemplary, which, per se, is already staged. Like a director with a cameraman, Wall does not necessarily


stand behind the camera himself, but rather directs the production of his pictures. For a long period he, above all, staged the image before the photographic documenting of it, but, in the 1990s, turned to manipulating images digitally and using them for the montage and post-processing. This is how he arranged the picture «Dead Troops Talk» (1992) in the studio, photographed in individual sections later assembled digitally, and finally simulated a monumental outdoor photograph. Wall is less concerned with comprehensibility and directly identifying drastic interventions than he is with creating suggested, complex reference systems. And to ensure their success the artist meanwhile uses electronic intervention possibilities as well, which he sees as merely the technical expansions of an existing repertoire: «The picture is a relation of unlike things; montage is hidden, masked, but present, essentially. I feel that my digital montages make this explicit, but that they’re not essentially different from my ‹integral› photographs.» [9]

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