Background images credits  

Lava Flow, 2005
series “The Quiet of Dissolution”
C-type print, Diasec
185 x 150 cm
Courtesy DZ Bank Kunstsammlung
© Sonja Braas

Tornado, 2005
series “The Quiet of Dissolution”
C-type print, Diasec
185 x 140 cm
Courtesy DZ Bank Kunstsammlung
© Sonja Braas

The artist’s photographs have nothing in common with the customary images of earthquakes, fires, tornados and floods regularly presented to us by the media. We are accustomed to low-definition pictures often taken with cellular telephones or jerky, almost amateurish video material.
On the contrary, the images of natural catastrophes created by Sonja Braas are devoid of all narrative intention and transmit a feeling of serenity. Wholly uncontaminated and unconnected with human destiny, they appear as though frozen in time. The tornado threatens no city and lava flow can be admired in all its majesty because the eruption seems to have no consequences whatsoever. 
The viewer is prompted to wonder how the artist was able to take these photographs, how she managed to get so close to the tornado and how she positioned her camera. The images presented by the artist do not in fact come the scenes of devastating natural catastrophes but were created in her studio as idealized models of reality. Sonja Braas offers us photographs of models of volcanoes and tornados that she herself constructed with extraordinary precision as a basis for ideal and perfect images that simulate natural events. Sonja Braas has worked on artificial images of nature from the very outset. You Are Here consists of a series of photographs of “manufactured” natural landscapes taken in zoological gardens or natural science museums and placed alongside shots of “real” landscapes. Viewers comparing these images find it hard to tell what is “true” from what is “false”. Her works thus address the idea of nature typical of modern mankind, which is deeply characterized and influenced by mass-media images. It is the ubiquitous nature of the media that then generates the demand for an “authentic” representation of natural disasters. Sonja Braas circumvents this demand with her photographs and challengingly confronts the viewer with the representation of a representation.

Lava Flow, 2005
Tornado, 2005
Veduta dell'allestimento in mostra
© Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Firenze; Valentina Muscedra

Sonja Braas (Germany, 1968)

The Quiet of Dissolution is a series by the German artist Sonja Braas addressing the theme of natural catastrophes. Everything in these photographs appears to be perfect. The whirlwind in Tornado occupies the centre of the image and divides it in accordance with the compositional rules of the golden section, standing out against the background of a leaden sky that enhances its sculptural quality. The surface of Lava Flow is divided by molten magma like brushstrokes of golden yellow on the black background of a canvas. Sonja Braas applies the compositional rules of painting in photographing her subjects but imagines idealized scenarios, drawing in particular on the 18th-century tradition of landscape painting, which subordinated the reality of nature to its ideal representation.

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