Precarious marks: Thomas ruff 's jpegs

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This essay analyses Thomas Ruff 's jpegs series (from 2004) and argues, against recent proclamations by scholars and artists such as Michael Fried and Jeff Wall regarding the 'defeat' of Conceptual Art, that in fact it is precisely the conceptual photographic 'document' that has become an epistemological and conceptual horizon within which contemporary art operates. In jpegs images appear as authorless, anonymous generic documents and thus can be defined as appropriated readymades. Nevertheless, rather than simply continuing conceptual strategies of de-skilling which mobilize the serial 'document' as 'a piece of information' in the 1970s, Ruff 's jpegs show that today photographic images are pure information, that is, they signal the fact that in the current moment dematerialized images are treated not only as depictions but mainly as quantitative information. By focusing on the new technological and economic conditions for the circulation and storage of photographic images, jpegs outline a new form of subjectivity as a 'structural' effect of this shift to the digital. They also make clear that in the history of photography the conceptual was never separated from the formal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-192
Number of pages20
JournalOxford Art Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History


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