Lorne Roberts - Photos capture highrise contradictions
Review on «Office 2000», The Winnipeg Free Press, October 27, 2005
PHOTOS CAPTURE HIGHRISE CONTRADICTIONS
The skyscraper, one of the more distinct creations of our age, seems to encapsulate within it all the contradictions of the modern world. While it's a testament to our incredible ability to build larger and more efficient structures and systems, it's also a symbol of our unfortunate ability to completely isolate ourselves from the world around us. This set of contradictions might be what makes Thomas Kneubuhler's exhibit of photographs, running until tomorrow, so interesting. Featuring half a dozen large works, all depicting office towers lit up at night, the photos are taken from another building, giving us a view directly into windows high above street level.
In his novel Generation X, writer and visual artist Douglas Coupland famously referred to office cubicles as "veal-fattening pens." His comment highlighted the idea that the modern office reduces us to cattle, penned in and dehumanised, ultimately serving only to benefit someone other than ourselves.
The work in this show considers a similar idea, providing a glimpse into hundreds of empty offices, each with their individual touches, but each lacking much in the way of charm or personality. The fact that we see so few humans (I counted just one) amplifies this, so that the balloons, plants and papers scattered on desks only heighten the ghostly quality.
Kneubuhler, who was born in Switzerland but now resides in Montreal, has put together a show of photographs that will move viewers with their emptiness -- even though the images are filled with details, there is a sense of looking at a static museum display or a ghost town, once thriving, but then suddenly and inexplicably abandoned.
It's a stark reminder of our temporary status on this planet, and of the ways that technology has isolated us -- even now, when advances in communication are supposed to be bringing us all closer together.