Boris Loder, Particles

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2019 by Kehrer Verlag (here). Cloth hardcover, 24x30cm, 56 pages, with 46 color reproductions. Includes essays by Hans Fellner and Nathalie Herschdorfer. Design by Hans Gremmen. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: There’s a small bowl on one of the side tables in our living room that is filled with rocks. Our family picked up these rocks on the shoreline of Lake Champlain in Vermont. The rocks are dark grey, and veined through with lines of white, creating stripes, crosses, and other linear patterns. To the average visitor to our home, they are just unusual looking grey rocks in a bowl, but to us, they are both a memory trigger and a stand-in for a particular lakeside landscape.

The idea that a selection of objects from a specific place can be used to visualize that place lies at the heart of the German photographer Boris Loder’s photobook Particles. Loder’s location of choice is Luxembourg, and in particular its capital city, which like many major cities in Europe is in the midst of a broad transformation, with new construction, neighborhood gentrification, and expansion all taking place at the same time. His project aims to document this environment of change, by looking more closely at various locations around town.

But rather than make traditional photographic landscapes (or cityscapes) of specific places, Loder has taken a much more unconventional approach, and one that bears a distant resemblance to our humble bowl of black and white rocks. Loder started by visiting a cross section of places in the capital, from obvious community locations like the airport, a hospital, a church, a sports field, a train station, a garden, a playground, and the modern art museum, to overlooked “non-places” like a parking garage, an abandoned house, the recycling center, a gas station, and underneath a bridge. At each location, he did indeed make a photograph (these images are collected in an array in the back of the photobook), but more importantly, he gathered up a representative sample of physical objects found at that site.

He then took these things (each pile from a single place), brought them home to his studio, and carefully wedged the groups into clear Plexiglas cubes measuring 10 centimeters on a side. Loder went on to photograph these terrarium-like boxes against white backgrounds, and then used painstaking digital manipulation to remove the clear containers, leaving behind sculptural blocks of packed stuff floating in undefined whiteness. It is these end point photographs, along with a sprinkling of black confetti-like dots that place the locations on an abstracted map of the city, that are the main visual content in Particles.

In a certain way, Loder has re-envisioned the idea of “framing” a landscape, from using a camera to selectively define, compose, and arrange a distant view to using a plastic box to physically confine and organize a selection of its component parts. His approach forces us to rethink how we see a landscape – instead of centering on its architecture, its natural beauty, or its spatial grandeur from afar, Loder asks us to intimately consider what’s underfoot in that place: the dirt, the rocks, the discarded trash, the construction debris, and the rest of the overlooked leftovers that populate urban locations of all kinds.

What Loder has collected isn’t entirely surprising. At the Aéroport de Luxembourg, he’s gathered up discarded boarding passes, bag tags, and other paperwork, along with a few candy wrappers and cigar stubs. At the Playground Ritterburg, it’s mostly sand and old sticks, with a decorative top of drinking straws, deflated balloons, and soda tops. And at an abandoned house, he’s found broken glass and concrete, along with needles, alcohol wipes, empty drug vials, and flattened pharmaceutical packs. These materials are clues to larger stories, where patterns of human behavior at a particular place are altering its appearance.

Some of Loder’s most resonant sculptures bring texture and color to the forefront. At the Maternité Grande-Duchesse Charlotte, fallen red leaves are paired with medical wrappers and pink and blue colored items from the new baby ward. At the recycling center, rusty car parts, bits of wire, and slabs of concrete come together in a tactile roughness. And at the Rond-Point Richard Serra (a roundabout with a Serra sculpture), gravel bits are intermingled with rusty rocks and pieces of metal from passing cars that recall the steel panel forms of Serra’s artwork.

What’s conceptually intriguing about Loder’s works is that they have transformed a visualized landscape into a form of hand-crafted sculpture – the “location-in-a-box” idea may initially seem gimmicky, but it generally works. And by building his sculptures out of parts drawn from the site, Loder re-inserts a sense of inhabited human presence. Loder’s innovative approach offers us a way to see places we think we’ve already seen, his unconventional sampling and re-imagining process highlighting small patterns of activity that might normally go unnoticed.

Collector’s POV: Boris Loder does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via his website (linked in the sidebar).

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