Skip to main content

The premiere exhibition in the Netherlands of Swiss artistic duo, Jojakim Cortis & Adrian Sondereggerand their celebrated series Icons at The Ravestijn Gallery, Amsterdam.

In 2012, Cortis & Sonderegger presented themselves with a challenge; to recreate some of the world’s most iconic images in their studio by hand. Trawling through books filled with history’s most memorable photographs, the duo employed analogue methods (cotton wool, plastic models, tape and glue) to duplicate a series of historic moments long embedded in the consciousness of the public; moments that changed world perspective and often sparked creative or political rebellion.

What began as a joke between the two artists six years ago, has developed into a compelling, ongoing series involving in-depth research, a sense of play and sly humour in the miniature re-staging of these pivotal events in time. Carefully considering the conditions in which each original image was made, the artists meticulously mimicked similar methods in their studio; using scale models, while paying close attention to the lighting and vantage point of the camera in their ‘re-makes’ of events, which range from the crash of the Hindenburg and the supersonic passenger jet Concorde, to the last photographic of the Titanic and the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima. Later, the artists expanded the challenge to include important moments in the history of photography, remaking images by Robert Frank, Cartier Bresson and Andreas Gursky.

In their final compositions, Cortis & Sonderegger pull the back to reveal their studio and working methods; exposing the backstage, ‘making of’ aspect of their craft. By including the debris generated by their constructions, the artists present an image within an image – leaving the viewer unbalanced between the remake of the past and the artist’s studio environment of the present.

In Icons Cortis & Sonderegger look for ways to ‘outwit and question the documentary aspect’ of photography. It is important for them that their images are seen as completely transparent forgeries with no additional digital ‘tricks’ (they use Photoshop only to adjust contrast). Their aim is not to mislead the viewer – instead, they want to fully expose the staging process in order to raise questions in the mind of their audience about the temporal nature of experience and memory. By transforming the spectacular into something extremely ordinary, Icons facilitates the questioning of memory and how our perception of what is ‘real’ informs our truths.

Works by Cortis & Sonderegger are held in the collections of: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (USA), Museum Folkwang, Essen (DE), The Battery, San Francisco (US), Museum of Fine Arts Houston (US), Fotostiftung Winterthur (CH) Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (US) and other location in the US and Europe.

Jojakim Cortis (b. 1978) & Adrian Sonderegger (b.1980) have lived and worked in Zurich, Switzerland since 2001. They began collaborating during their studies at Zurich University of the Arts in 2005.