Thomas Albdorf "Body Double" @ Webber Gallery, Los Angeles
The series Body Double, by Austrian artist Thomas Albdorf, on view at Webber in Los Angeles from June 3—July 29, 2023 acts as a pseudo portrait of Los Angeles; a city engrained in our collective conscience and a place with an unescapable aesthetic, whether that be derived from popular culture or the movie industry. For Albdorf (who has only visited the city once before), the streets, hotel rooms, concrete pavements and iconic landmarks have become a backdrop to a metaphor in how we perceive contemporary imagery and its ability at creating and distributing experience.
However, almost nothing we see here is what it appears to be. The foundation of the work lies not in the streets of Los Angeles but from the artist’s studio in Vienna, where the vast majority of the material is sculpted, photographed and reappropriated.Woven in with these artist simulations are screenshots of LA taken from existing stock imagery or Google Street View – a site pilfered by the artist in his 2017 series General View, an alternative and authorless depiction of Yosemite Valley taken solely from the mapping platform. In the short timeframe where humanity and photography have co-existed, this American National Park has gone from being only accessible through the vision and interpretations of a handful of privileged practitioners, to an open and live feed.
Recently, image-based AI platforms have become more publicly available and increasingly adept at bridging the gap between the real and fake - leading to increased discourse on creative authorship and a more complex narrative as to how we decipher and determine visual semantics.
AI creates a new image by trawling through a mass of existing images before running the collated information through a software programme, a technique Albdorf has employed in some of the works from Body Double. In this sense, it’s important to speculate on how we will conjure images in the future, both internally and externally but also to determine who is putting these images in to circulation and how; what will happen to our collective visions of cities like Los Angeles?
In one image from the series titled ‘Four Letters, Part Two’ we see a cardboard cut-out of the word ‘land’ jumbled together on a supposed LA street. This is in fact Albdorf’s reappropriation of the suffix from the original Hollywood sign – Hollywoodland – which stood erected at the site for over 25 years. The sign has become an integral part of the iconography of the city, the film industry and even a beacon of inspiration. It’s probably the first image that is pulled from our subconscious mind when we hear the mention of LA.
It’s in both this instance, and his use of LA as a metaphor in its entirety, that Albdorf is asking the viewer to speculate on our relationships with images – the role and impact of them on our positioning in the world, to our understanding of our past and the projections of our futures.
Thomas Albdorf | Body Double
June 3 - July 29, 939 S Santa Fe Ave, LA