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Florian Maier-Aichen in "Fantasy"

“Photography used to be like alchemy back in the nineteenth century,” says Florian Maier-Aichen, who uses the computer to introduce imperfections and detach his photographs from reality, bringing them closer to the realm of drawing.

Shown capturing his source images with a traditional large-format camera, the artist introduces painterly touches to his photographs with the aid of a digital stylus and tablet. “Illustration is just another level of abstracting,” he says, “it lifts you to another layer that is not necessarily linked to realism and it opens up your own world or your own myth-making.”

Inspired by the idealized quality of postcards and maps, the segment shows how the artist remakes images of landscapes, from a nostalgic nighttime scene of Stralsund in GDR times to epic vistas such as a pass in the Swiss Alps, ski slopes in the Sierras, Half Dome in Yosemite, and the failed St. Francis Dam near Santa Clarita.

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Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Associate Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Nick Ravich. Production Coordinator: Larissa Nikola-Lisa. Consulting Director: Catherine Tatge. Editor: Mark Sutton. Director of Photography: Takahisa Araki, Martial Barrault, Kurt Branstetter, Robert Elfstrom, Mark Falstad, Miguel Sanchez-Martin, Ian Serfontein, & Joel Shapiro. Additional Photography: Frank Dellario, Brian Hwang, & Clair Popkin. Sound: Tom Bergin, Ray Day, Steve “Major” Giammaria, Heidi Hesse, Mark Mandler, Roger Phenix, & Paul Stadden. Assistant Camera: Agnès Jammal, Jin Long Nan, Clair Popkin, Nick Skolnick, Adriano Vasquez, & Jean-Pierre Vial. Grip: Scott Barhends & Bill Frye. Field Producer: David Howe. Cao Fei Interview & Translation: Phil Tinari & Xiaotong Wang.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Direction & Design: Open, New York. Graphics Animation: Maurice Caicedo & Urosh Perishic. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins & Greg Smith. Sound Mix: Cory Melious. Artwork Animation: Frank Ferrigno. Assistant Editor: Ahmed Amer, Janine Cappadona, Paulo Padilha, Joaquin Perez, Leana Siochi, & Ken Yapelli.

Artworks Courtesy of: Cao Fei; Mary Heilmann; Jeff Koons; Florian Maier-Aichen; 303 Gallery, New York; Blum & Poe, Los Angeles; Lombard-Freid Projects, New York; Pace Prints, New York; & RMB City 2009.

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees; Michael Ashburn; Sarah Barasch; Travis Call; Pat Carney; Pat Casteel and Steve Wylie; Chåteau de Versailles Spectacles; Xixi Chen; Ralph Cuccurullo; Samantha Culp; Jill Davis; Dog Bark Sound; Tom Donnelly; Jessica Eisenthal; L’Etablissement Public du musée et du domaine national de Versailles; Frame:Runner, NYC; Alexandra Gaty; Simon Greenberg; Elizabeth Hull; Jeff Koons Studio, New York; Lu Jia; Tomoko Kimata; Sarah Kohn; Venus Lau; Mengxian Li; Karla Loring; Amy Lukas; Sheila Lynch; Carlin Mayer; Mariko Munro; Renée Martin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Erik Pepple; Heather Rasmussen; Andre Ribuoli; RMB City Studio, Beijing; Lauran Rothstein; Nancy Schindele; Susan Schneider; Kathrin Schweizer; Serpentine Gallery, London; Keith Shapiro; Karen Simonian; Sound Lounge; John Steele; Kelsey Sundberg; Liane Thatcher; Fleur Treglown; Vitamin Creative Space, Beijing; Tony Volante; Amy Wenzel; & Wexner Center for the Arts.

Additional Art21 Staff: Beth Allen, Mary Cook, Joe Fusaro, Jessica Hamlin, Jennifer H. Lee, Marc Mayer, Jonathan Munar, Katherine Payne, Kelly Shindler, & Sara Simonson.

Interns: Maggie Bordonaro, Krystle DeMauro, Natalia P. Good, Sophie Grant, Pinchang Huang, Joy Lai, Rachele Lam, Jamie Leonardi, Melanie K. Mambo, Pauli Ochi, Sara Odam, David Roesing, Nicole Ross, Nicole Sansone, & Julia Wright.

Public Relations: Goodman Media International. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Valerie Riley. Travel Agent: Lita Gottesman.

Major underwriting for Art in the Twenty-First Century Season Five provided by: National Endowment for the Arts; Public Broadcasting Service; Agnes Gund; Bloomberg; The Nathan Cummings Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The Broad Art Foundation; Korea Foundation; & The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Florian Maier-Aichen

Alternately romantic, cerebral, and unearthly, Florian Maier-Aichen’s digitally altered photographs are closer to the realm of drawing and fiction than documentation. He embraces difficult techniques, chooses equipment that produces accidents such as light leaks and double exposures, and uses computer enhancements to introduce imperfections and illogical elements into images that paradoxically “feel” visually right, though they are factually wrong. Often employing an elevated viewpoint (the objective but haunting “God’s-eye view” of aerial photography and satellite imaging), Maier-Aichen creates idealized, painterly landscapes that function like old postcards.

“Illustration is just another level of abstracting. It lifts you to another layer that is not necessarily linked to realism and it opens up your own world or your own myth-making.”

Florian Maier-Aichen

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Can a work of art that is abstract also be realistic? Can a work of art that is realistic also be abstract?


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Built-In Mistakes

In this interview from 2008, conducted at the artist’s Los Angeles studio, Florian Maier-Aichen discusses his beginnings as an artist, the evolution of his hybrid practice, and his respect for nineteenth-century landscape photographers.

Florian Maier-Aichen

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Florian Maier-Aichen

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Florian Maier-Aichen

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