(german version here)
Of numbers, nuggets and weird scissors
“The story doesn’t begin with the image and it doesn’t end with the image.” - Colin Pantall
So far we have seen Konstantin Weber's talent as a romantic chamber player, quiet, unpretentious, photographic solitaires brought to the point: Folded hands. Looking at an almost lowered shutter, light shimmers through the light slits like a promising luminous code. The lateral back view of a seated man in a white t-shirt. Views of car bodies, car headlights, the nocturnal frame of a football goal, on a distant horizon line lonely a few small lights. The close-up of a hand, the tip of the index finger touching a knee. Photographs, so only possible in very special moments, taken in an almost hermetic light atmosphere.
"In all my works I ask above all for the reference to reality. An artificial, generated image is inherent in my works that the viewer may not be able to perceive at first glance. It seems like photography, yet it is only partially so. In the series Mountain Tales I take up the visual language I gained in Custom Wastelands, but show pictures that I didn't photograph in this way. An absolutely underexposed (like pitch-black) picture may have become a shining cloud here. An analog picture only reached its meaning through the malfunction of a camera. So at the beginning I do not know which picture can be included in my work. Therefore I am constantly in the process of gaining control over my work, only to let go at the right moment." - Konstantin Weber
But, as it turns out, Weber is much more than that: a research traveller, extremely interested in the essence of the pictorial, in the photographic; in questioning common theories of photography as well as the historical and current technical possibilities, the latter by weeks of fiddling with every available AI software, in cooperation with software specialists. To make new possibilities of Computational Photography, of making AI one's own and understanding it - to evaluate them, to reject them if necessary, and to develop one's own artistic ideas from this processual understanding, that is the approach of Konstantin Weber.
In the series "Land of the Threes" Weber superimposes 3 image layers on top of each other, which sometimes differ more, sometimes less in their underlying shooting parameters, 3 levels, 3 real moments merge into one image to form a fictional fourth level, a fictional fourth moment.
"My general motivation is to see through the pattern of an image. I ask myself what makes a picture a picture. I look for the beginning and the end of a work." - Konstantin Weber
And so Weber, for example, extracts a single pixel from an image, basically monochrome squares like Lego bricks, runs them through specific AI applications and then enlarges the result on paper: wonderful, large-format prints of diffuse color surfaces, reminiscent of the look and feel of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings. Obviously, emptiness is not only a problem for us humans...
Weber then presents the pixel prints to us like large posters folded for shipping, and when they are carefully unfolded they become a haptic experience. Completely undigital analog :)
In contrast, we see a small, grey, rather inconspicuous object with the appearance of a piece of corrugated cardboard, resting on a plinth. The result of thinking about a 20-year-old, practically forgotten, blurred, unintentionally recorded video sequence. On top of all this, a sunset, of all things. 198kb, one second long, only 15 frames. An operating error. A video, 198kb, one second, a data joke. But also a challenge for Weber: deleting would be a pity somehow, too easy. There's still something there, but what?
An artifact, a vague memory, barely tangible, both for humans and for the machine, reappeared from the last corner of the oldest hard disk and the furthest corner of the brain. So Weber takes the 15 images, tries to reconstruct this scene, to trace it: what was it like back then? And what actually makes a memory of it? What do we see before our inner eye? And in what quality? In RAW? In 3D? Or is the smallest resolution enough? And, of course, at how many frames per second does our inner film run?
We see the video, we see the 15 frames and the corrugated cardboard. And that's where the moment from back then comes together. Made with special software that generates plastic models from recordings of an object. Also from two-dimensional objects like the 15 film images, here the program calculates a 3D view by means of the image contrasts due to a lack of information. Like a three-dimensional map model. Such a rather difficult, imprecise undertaking. A small part is even beside it. Crumbled?
No, it's the sun, on the 15 pictures of course much brighter than the dark scenery, the program can't find any connection here. And calculates two parts.
A video coagulated into a 3D resin object. Can I scan it electronically and convert it back? What would be the result? But perhaps Weber will soon use it as a model for a large, rough wooden object or for a nugget made of gold. Gold digger atmosphere.
At the moment Weber is working, among other things, on exploring connections between algorithms, neural networks and lucid dreaming, an extremely exciting field, I think. Nodding off for a while reading in the evening, I "caught myself" as my brain continued to read the text I had just read without reading further, and was always very surprised by these new "lines". How does something like this come about? What does our brain build up there? The more data it is fed with and the better its algorithms are, the better the AI works... ...I guess we're all pretty much the same on a biochemical, neural level. Konstantin brings all this technical stuff back to earth, so to speak, into our "real", human life, he de-abstracts, he locates it for us: Photography will not just become code.
In the work The Shy Image we approach a monitor as a mirror, observed by intelligent software. But if we get too close to the mirror, our mirror image disappears, it becomes pure mathematics and thus a file. The individual human face meets the algorithm and disappears into an invisible sphere that can only be explained by logic. My (mirror) image thus remains (precisely) in the machine, (more imprecisely) in my memory. Becoming invisible, contrary to all elementary experience. Becoming a symbol. And if you like: A quasi reversed polaroid effect.
a person cutting a piece of paper with scissors shows a dialogue between conventional photography and an image-to-text algorithm. It is based on a series of photographs that Weber took during his work as a product photographer. But we do not see the finished product photos, but rather photos from an intermediate area, scenes in which everything had to be prepared for the actual shooting: the exact laying out of a table runner, the smoothing of a tablecloth or the positioning of a coffee cup. In the following process, Weber used image-to-text software to analyze these recordings.
The underlying data set, a library of over 300,000 images, is used by AI to automatically categorize images. Decisive for Weber were the sometimes very different interpretations of the image material. A simple rotation of the hand, the body or simply a different colored tablecloth brought the code to completely inappropriate, absurd conclusions.
With this work, Weber reveals to the viewer how these complex systems interpret the viewing itself. The software determines, it does not think. The title a person cutting a piece of paper with scissors also describes perhaps the most obvious misinterpretation. An iron that is run over a tablecloth, giving the code the impression that a piece of paper is being cut with scissors. Of course it is clear here that the program decides according to the rough shapes and colours. A white tablecloth, a white paper. Of course, the difference is clear to us.
For Konstantin Weber, this work is "like a dance with the meaning of the images". Through the texts, the photographs wrestle with the artist and the viewer for a sovereignty of interpretation, for a supposed truth. And they are, and this is what makes this work so aesthetically appealing, wonderfully absurd, in addition to the absurd attributions by the AI itself. The absurd is potentiated and we can immerse ourselves in it.
Konstantin Weber ultimately transforms applied mathematics into a poetic image alphabet. The old magic of numbers becomes a new magic of photography, the art of photography.
Claus Stolz, 2020