|Andreas Gursky, Bahrain I, 2005|
The first thing that struck me was the impossibility of the perspective on the landscape seen by Bahrain I. Gursky places us, at one and the same time, looking down from on high at the racetrack as it winds through the sand dunes of Bahrain, as well as perpendicular to a diminishing perspective. The built environment in the background, or at the top of the image, depending on how we look at it, recedes towards a horizon marked at its precipice with a sky erased of all detail. The simultaneous horizontality and verticality of Bahrain I, suspending the viewer in a contradictory indecision about how to look, is typical of Gursky’s tendency to push representation right to the edges of abstraction. In a compositional frame that is familiar from Gursky’s other landscapes in particular, the racetrack is simultaneously in the world and reduced to a two dimensional surface made representation by what could be plastic tape. Until, of course, the eye reaches the back of the image and the traces of human life have either been left, or await us, in the form of a man made environment. And then, in that moment of recognition of the city, the racetrack starts to appear to fall down the side of a vertical cliff.