cover image Landscapes Without Memory

Landscapes Without Memory

, . . Aperture, $40 (96pp) ISBN 978-1-931788-79-3

Spare a thought for Caspar David Friedrich's poor, beleaguered "Wanderer in a Sea of Fog." The classic 1818 depiction of a man trying to have a little quiet time in the mountains is dragged out for reproduction every time anybody—from textbook publisher to tourist bureau decorator—needs a handy symbol for romantic subjectivity or Bavaria. But the final indignity might be its inclusion in this weird book—transformed by scanners and computers into a "landscape" that looks like the background of a video game, only really, really sharp. Artists from Rousseau to Hokusai are given the same inane treatment, and after running out of artists to ruin, Spanish photographer Fontcuberta starts using his body parts. But it doesn't make much difference: the images all look like the covers of techno compilations by groups you've never heard of. Beyond filling the no doubt pressing commercial need for wealthy nerds to have their own Thomas Kinkade, it is hard to know what Fontcuberta intends with this production. The essay by critic Geoffrey Batchen stoutly attempts to find some subversive value in the works' very awfulness, but sometimes kitsch is just kitsch. (Oct.)