Contradictions abound in the work of Montreal artist Thomas Kneubühler. Whether it’s in the ambiguous boundaries of public and private space, the all-pervasive spectre of security surveillance or even the radiant, if dehumanizing, beauty of cityscapes, Kneubühler’s practice tellingly identifies the co-existing insecurities, uncertainties and subtle pleasures embedded in the structures of modern life.
For his latest photo series, Electric Mountains, Kneubühler turns his camera on the contrasting visions of nature and artifice found in the ski slope landscapes of rural Quebec. It’s familiar ground for the artist, having grown up close to the Swiss Alps, but these recreational mountainscapes are charged with a marked difference. As he writes in his artist statement, “When I first came to Canada, I remember driving on the highway passing a mountain full of lights. It looked to me like a surreal landscape, almost like an installation or land-art project…I was stunned.”
Indeed, the images from this project glow with an otherworldly effect. In them, super-lit ski hills transform the elemental nature of otherwise solitary landscapes into a supernatural spectacle. It’s a hyperreal discrepancy that comes full circle in Mountain (Switch), an accompanying video collaboration with musician Steve Bates. In a time-lapse recording, the artificial lights on a winter scene gradually turn off, with the traces of human presence on the landscape fading back to black. (372 Ste-Catherine O #212, Montreal QC)