The book of photographs ‘AS IF‘ is the sequel to ‘A NOT B’, wherein quotidian items are again staged and captured through the camera’s unblinking eye. Yet the images are no longer set in the innocent atmosphere of the preschool years, when the world is read through analogies, but catapulted into a darker space of representation at the cusp of adolescence, against the backdrop of a hyper-commercialized world. The compositions create a distinctive play with logic, language, and meaning. Objects transform from their humble selves into abstract shapes discharged of meaning, or alternately into advertisements for themselves, charged with desire or bad omens of an ominous future.
Uta Eisenreich’s visual world is one with many worlds within. In this long-awaited new book AS IF, she explores representation and language, following her interest in perception and illusion; they challenge the quotidian by applying an impression of absurdity and apparent banality with scientific precision. A certain oddity might confuse the eye, despite the precise and linear structures, the hidden patterns, and layers of meanings in the images. Uta Eisenreich’s work is a playground for the viewer to construct meaning out of re-signified and de-signified objects.
As philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein expressed in his Philosophical Investigations, words are not defined by reference to the objects they designate, nor by what is mentally associated with them, but by how they are employed. In a playful yet calculated manner, Eisenreich draws from theories of language learning and popular symbol systems, from emojis to the grammatical and mathematical visualizations of Maria Montessori. Altogether, they form a rich repository of linguistic propositions that question and inform our collective consciousness.
Each 22-page section of photos is followed by a double page of ‘picture captions‘ which relate in widely differing ways to the photographed objects, to their formal characteristics, to visual language and so on. Some of the captions are purely descriptive; others contain quotations from philosophy, perceptual psychology, advertising manuals and more; others still are jokes. The individual arrangements of image and text are like magical moments: while it might not be immediately clear how exactly it all works, there is no doubt that it does. The typography of the captions varies in subtle ways, while the grid and arrangement on the double page remain constant. The various material elements of the book are combined with consummate skill: a high-gloss paper, a matte paper, a reflective film for the hardcover and a thin paper for the dust jacket with a hole that looks like a picture element. What is an image? This book offers multiple clues to the answer, without ever appearing didactic, cryptic or ironic.
AS IF is the second book in the collaboration between photographer Uta Eisenreich and designer Julia Born and a brilliant exploration of their mutual exchange between the languages of text and image. It is no wonder that this book won the Most Beautiful Swiss Books award of the year 2021
author: Uta Eisenreich
designer: Julia Born
©2021 Roma Publishers
hardcover, dust-jacket 156 pages , ills colour, 22 x 29 cm, English
As IF was part of Test Press Books / 2022