Joan Fontcuberta’s Recycled Landscapes


Utilizing computer software developed by the military to render cartographic data into 3D geographic illustrations, Spanish conceptual artist Joan Fontcuberta transforms modernist landscape paintings and photographs into imaginary digital realms that question the power of photography to represent the truth. Instead of inputting maps into the scenery-rendering Terragen software, Fontcuberta entered masterpieces by Paul Cezanne, Andre Derain, Gustave LeGray, Jackson Pollock, Edward Weston, and others to slyly make virtual landscapes from artistic ones.

“The software is constrained to output a landscape, whatever the input,” he has explained. “It must produce an image within a vocabulary of limited terms: mountains, volcanoes, valleys, rivers, oceans… And this is the point: a landscape is recycled into another landscape. This subversion unveils another gesture: we make computers to produce hallucinations, we push technology to let its own unconscious emerge.”

Fontcuberta’s fantastical photographs are currently on view in the exhibition Landscapes without Memory at Foam_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam through February; an eponymous titled book is also available from Aperture.

Orogenesis: Derain, 2004 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Kandinsky, 2004 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Le Gray, 2004 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Pollock, 2002 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Weston, 2004 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Turner, 2003 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Cezanne, 2003 © Joan Fontcuberta

Orogenesis: Fenton, 2006 © Joan Fontcuberta