International exhibitions

International 2009 Archives

Michael Najjar, High Altitude
Bitforms Gallery, New York (USA)

18.09 - 24.10.2010

07.09 - 25.11.2012

Précédent Suivant


Press release

Sublime panoramas and networked financial data co-exist inside a virtual landscape informed by Michael Najjar's recent expedition to Mount Aconcagua. Transforming the real experimential city into closely woven grids of information, thee twelve works of the netropolis portfolio embody the space of networked exchange.

"There is no real and no imaginary except a certain distance. What happens when this distance, even the one separating the real from the imaginary, begins to disappear and to be absorbed by the model alone ?" Jean Baudrillard

Bitforms gallery is pleased to announce a third solo exhibition with German photographic artist Michael Najjar and the world premiere of his high altitude work series. In this body of work, Najjar continues to weld fact and fiction. Exploring vocabulary of the romantic sublime, including paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, and informed by the artist's own climb up to the 22.800 foot summit of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, high altitude features breathtaking panoramas. Picturing spaces in society driven by networked financial data, these virtual landscapes are a meditation on the global market structure, its sophistication, and vulnerability.

The spectacle of elemental forces at play in mountainous vistas has been an enduring source of fascination for people, and especially artists, across the ages. Relating a parable of risk and cataclysm, Michael Najjar's nine large format photographs draw a visual comparaison between the forces of nature and those in the modern economy driven by computer networks. Cliff and rocks formations in these sweeping horizons portray development of the world's leading stock exchange indices over the past 20 - 30 years. Like a graph or blueprint, Najjar suspends the performance charts of indices such as the Dow Jones Hang Seng, Nikkei and Dax over the mountain peaks, and then alters the natural courbe of each mountain range. Pairing pure natural beauty with the development of the global financial system, a virtual value system is mapped.

"The current economic crisis has dramatically highlighted one thing in particular - that we now often deal not with real goods and commodities but with chains of signifiers" says Michael Najjar. The irrational - something which defies our powers of imagination - in turn shapes the reality of our daily lives. In this way a symbiosis is created between reality and virtuality. The expressive power of mountains and stock markets share certain aspects in common. Both have an emotional force ; they can awake feelings of happiness (reaching the summit, windfalls from speculation), yet they also carry components of risk within them (injuries, losses). Both have the power to destroy lives. This is most strikingly revealed in the work entitled Lehman Brothers, 92-08 which shows how the high degree of complexity in our present-day virtual world can lead to a total system crash. The shared course climbs abd climbs, and ends abruptly - leaving only emptiness and the sloping mountain plateau behind.


Exhibition 18 September - 24 October 2009. Bitforms Gallery, 529 West 20th Street (between 10th and 11th) 2nd Floor - New York, NY 10011. Tel. 212 366 6939.

Michael Najjar, High Altitude, Bitforms Gallery, New York

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved

Najjar's works are also concerned with exploring the nature of the sublime, the ineffability of perception. According to Edmund Burke, sublimity is compounded delight and horror in equal measure/ We may encounter feelings of the sublime in our everyday lives, in nature, or indeed in the financial world whenever the benchmarks by which we usually measure and gauge experience are invalidated or transcended. Such views and experience of sublimity are also reflected in the new works of Michael Najjar. The mountain has proven a consistent theme across the history of art, although not all artists have been ineterested in rendering an exact portrait. Caspar David Friedrich, for instance, painted the "Watzmann" peak without ever actually seeing it. His painting was not intended as a mere reproduction of nature but rather as a means of arousing feelings of awe and wonder "too deep for words". It was scientific curiosity that drew Leonardo da Vinci to mountains, while Gerhard Richter painted them for the atmospheric conditions they offered, their unclear contours bathed in diffused light. The motifs chosen by Michael Najjar are mistically haunting moments with craggy cliff plateaus, fragile clouds formations, frozen snow-clad summits or crisp views of mountain's ridges against an ice blue sky - yet always with the jagged lines of the mountain's silhouette - a monument of stock market quotations, hewn in stone, rising majestically over the world.

The work is based on the photographs Najjar shot during his three-week expedition up Mount Aconcagua in the Argentinean Andes whose summit he reached in January 2009. At 22.800 feet, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas. According to Najjar, "The reality of nature and the life rythm of a mountain cannot be measured on any human scale and thus becomes a virtual experience. Such experience of virtuality can also be found on the international economic and financial markets where the staggeringly large sums of money circulating the globe in real time defy our powers of comprehension.