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Thomas Ruff’s ma.r.s. 01–II: a pink-tinged haze of alien clouds and exotic fiction

Ruff doctors Nasa’s satellite pictures of Mars
Violet dreams... Ruff doctors Nasa’s satellite pictures of Mars (detail; full image below) Photograph: © Thomas Ruff

Purple haze

The swirling pink-tinged haze of alien clouds parts to provide a tantalising glimpse of violet terra firma – the surface of Mars – in this awesome image created by German photographer and astronomy nut Thomas Ruff.

Life on Mars

It is part of a series using high-resolution photographs of the planet’s surface taken by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite. However, nothing is quite what it seems. The images are compressed to offer new perspectives; some are rendered in 3D; and the colour is Ruff’s addition. Who is to say what kind of eyes might gaze on other planets after all, or what colours they might see?

Planet rock

In fact, in spite of its scientific origins, this is a work that quickly lands us in a particular kind of exotic fantasy. It goes back to the supposedly objective medium’s origins and the stereoscopic views of far-flung places such as India or Japan that wowed Victorian sideshow audiences.

Fake views

Ruff has described his Mars works as his comment on how contemporary photography is doctored in the digital era, in that “they look real but are completely fictional”.

Ruff doctors Nasa’s satellite pictures of Mars

Part of Thomas Ruff: Photographs, 1979-2017, Whitechapel Gallery, E1, to 21 January

This article titled "Thomas Ruff’s ma.r.s. 01–II: a pink-tinged haze of alien clouds and exotic fiction" was written by Skye Sherwin, for The Guardian on Friday 12 January 2018 10.00am

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