Mathieu Borysevicz on Façades 2008

„Modernity as Postmodernity“

An Alternate view of Roland Fischer’s Facades

“A facade of skyscrapers facing a lake and behind the facade, every type of dubiousness.” – E.M. Forster

We no longer live in a world centered on formal perfectionism, progress and technological salvation. Light, movement and space are now attuned to the course of a pluralistic and sometimes convoluted hegemony. The blank stares of modern architecture no longer simply convey formal arrangements of structure and sheathing but instead cast shadows etched with the paradoxes of economy, politics and culture. It is in these shadows of modernism that Roland Fischer’s Facades strikes a chord of historical irony.
Roland Fisher’s artistic pursuits have always been a challenge to photography’s basic tenets. Many cite his egalitarian treatment of sitters, whether it is buildings or humans, as a way to transcend the authority of subject and representation and instead reflect upon the medium’s awareness of itself. Composition, light and space are the pieces from which he constructs the puzzle of good picture making. In the case of Facades, he accomplishes this self-referentiality by embracing a brand of formalism undeniably linked to the aesthetics of hard edge abstraction painting. Here, flatness of form and graphic composition take center stage. These works can be read as a brand of anti-photography – one that abandons the illusion of depth, the pretense to record, one that sacrifices the rich language of the world for bracketed fields of color. Smart, sharp, and playful arrangements speak so candidly, but do so in an almost antiquated language. Yet these works are not a mere pastiche of high formalism- they are a facade. We no longer can use the language of modernism to deduce these works. Modernism here becomes signification of itself- a complex, lingering and challenged legacy.
On first impression there is no context to the image outside of itself. The works’ de- contextualization is even more evident in the muted silk-screens. But the precision of Fischer’s vertical sampling does not leave his abstractions completely detached from their referents – just enough detail points back to the edifices from which they came. Sharp clean lines eventually reveal the synthetic curtain walls of urban, and often corporate, architecture. Looking further the titles reveal the works as a global project: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, Nikko, Paris, City Hall, Toronto. Photographing facades in places as far as Brazil and China Fischer identifies a world still united by the commonality of a modernist aesthetic. In Facades III the alphabet of formalism swells, patterns become more colorful, flamboyant and a certain ethnic temperament seeps through. Yet these differentiations, no matter how diverse, still point back to the deconstructed legacy of modernism. The gleaming towers we see in these works signal the authority of architecture, the power of wealth and ultimately their own vulnerability.

Mathieu Borysevicz, Shanghai Feb.5 2008

published in: „Roland Fischer, Façades on Paper“ at Durham Press, Pennsylvania 2008

Mathieu Borysevicz is a curator, critic and artist who has been active in the contemporary arts of China since the mid-1990s. He is the founder and director of BANK/MABSOCIETY, a gallery at the BUND in Shanghai