In a culture marked by the virtual and rapidly changing new media, what is the place of the surface, the very expression of a physical substance? A border area between internal and external worlds, a threshold that separates the visual from the tactile, the surface is also and above all a place of material relations. In order to discover the materiality of the images that fill the contemporary and grasp their significance, it is therefore essential to explore the space of these relations and how they are mediated through surfaces that may take on the features of skin, of a dress, of a cinema screen or of a canvas, and even the screens of the electronic devices that dominate our daily lives. In following the thread of these encounters we discover how the visual is structured and understand that the image is not just a two-dimensional element, but something porous, an epidermis that absorbs time, a place where forms of memory and transformation can find expression; it is a device for bringing distant space-time dimensions together. Delving deep into the object relations between art, architecture, fashion, design, cinema and new media, Giuliana Bruno asks questions about the concept of materiality and its many manifestations.
Surface is a magisterial wandering through contemporary visual culture; a walk that traverses the light spaces of artists such as Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Tacita Dean and Anthony McCall, touches the tactile surfaces of the cinema screens of Isaac Julien, Sally Potter and Wong Kar-wai and travels across materiality in the architectural practices of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Herzog & de Meuron to the art of Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread, where the surface tension of media becomes concrete. It is a dissertation that manages to dispel a myth – that the surface is something superficial.