A Window Into Future: A Project by Onorato & Krebs, Bird in Flight Prize’21 Experts
German writer and curator Christine Müller explores the changes in documentary photography and the boundaries of its materiality. She talks about the series «Future memories», where time and space do not exist in the usual way.
Since its invention, photography has been regarded as a window to the world showing us a section of a different reality. Indeed, the very first photograph captured by Nicéphore Nièpce back in 1826 depicted a view from the window of his study. Subsequently, travel photographs provided vistas of distant countries and cultures. Today, Instagram tiles are nothing other than windows to countless individual realities.
In «Future memories», Onorato and Krebs use photography to explore how our vision of the future has changed. This seems paradoxical at first: despite the possibilities of image processing and digitization, photography is tied to recording the real, existing light on a lightsensitive medium at a certain point in time. Logically, then, Onorato & Krebs’s new images would need to contain light from the future and allow the time frozen in the photograph to extend forwards.
«The future has an ancient heart», wrote the Italian author Carlo Levi in 1956. To elaborate a little further: it begins deep in the past, continues to evolve in the present, and is increasingly shaped by humans. In 2020, man-made matter surpassed the existing biomass for the first time.
Based on these suppositions, Onorato & Krebs search their own archive for images that would indicate the emerging future. In recent years, their projects have taken them to the United States and China, where visions of the future and the technologies needed to implement them are evolving. They recently visited the Maldives, where the predicted ecological crisis is already clearly evident in the landscape. In addition, they use photographs from Greece, expanding the recorded timescale. Centuries-old temple complexes tell of a vision embodied in stone long before the dawn of our era. Museums display a select preserved past for later viewing.
Speculating on possible future scenarios, Onorato and Krebs collide fragments of different images. Moreover, they do it in a rather unpredictable way: as if a different view suddenly opened from the window of a familiar room.
Onorato and Krebs collide fragments of different images: as if a different view suddenly opened from the window of a familiar room.
In «Future memories», Onorato & Krebs condense what has been observed, transcending space and time. They visualize questions about how our relationship with the world will change in the future. They speculate about what realities will play out outside our windows. Do we need screens to perceive the state of the world? What will be represented in the future museums: nature, pollution, or an artificial world where nothing of the kind exists anymore?
The light and reactions of the photographic material take on leading roles in the photographs of Onorato and Krebs. The only connection to reality is technical, through the laser’s traces and the imprints of geometric templates or enigmatic items. It is not at all easy to navigate through these images.
We can only guess what we are peering at — the underwater world or outer space. Space and time are entirely suspended. What remains are images of the unknown that may be part of our future.
An artist duo living and working between Slovakia and Zurich. They studied photography at Zurich University of the Arts and have worked together since 2003. Their projects have been shown internationally in many galleries and institutions, including MoMA PS1 in New York, Foam Amsterdam, and Fotomuseum Winterthur.