NOW at the Corcoran—Mark Tribe: Plein Air
“Photography often walks a line between objective fidelity and artifice, between accurately reproducing something and transforming it through a series of aesthetic decisions that result in a new expression. In this sense, photography is akin to appropriation, which also involves finding, selecting, and reframing something that already exists to create a new thing.”—Mark Tribe
In Plein Air, new media artist Mark Tribe explores the aesthetics and representation of aerial views in landscape photography through the virtual lens of computer simulation.
Commissioned by the Corcoran, these new images were created in the studio with appropriated software that uses geospatial data and fractal algorithms to create digital simulations of real landscapes. Plein Air—a French expression that refers to painting outdoors in the open air—alters our perceptions, presenting outdoor landscapes from a “drone’s eye view,” a machinic perspective that is playing an increasingly important role in contemporary culture. Working indoors, Tribe pictures a computer-generated world in which familiar environments appear distant, almost foreign. Unlike traditional depictions of landscapes in art, these aerial views abstract what we know; they do not reproduce our “natural” terrestrial viewpoint.
Plein Air collapses the boundary between the actual and the virtual—the representational and the abstract—in ways that challenge the basic premise of photography. This project pushes some of the technological boundaries of image making and at the same time connects Tribe’s innovative practices to the historical conventions of both landscape painting and photography.
Tribe presents a catalogue of virtual landscapes that appear to have been shot by drones. He interrogates, frames, and implicitly critiques the ways in which landscape images are used to expand territories and defend geopolitical interests. By using software to generate his uncanny panoramas from data, Tribe suggests that the hovering lenses of unmanned devices produce images that can be as powerfully seductive as they are artificial.
NOW at the Corcoran is funded in part by the Corcoran Gallery of Art's 1869 Society.