Artwork of the month September

Thomas Struth, Blowout Preventer, Montrail County, North Dakota 2010, Hilti Art Foundation

Thomas Struth

* 1954 in Geldern, Germany

Blowout Preventer, Montrail County, North Dakota 2010

Chromogenic print (6/10)
169.5 x 204.7 cm (framed)
Hilti Art Foundation


With his photographs of technical plants and facilities, Thomas Struth probes a sphere of human venture that escapes general, practical understanding and demands a high level of expertise. His images allow us to look this technology in the face, the baffling variety of forms making this a purely functional, utilitarian physiognomy, one which expresses a logic governed solely by the success of the present, indeed the moment. And yet it is this logic, geared as it is to the immediate satisfaction of practical everyday demands with a maximum of intellectual and physical effort, and the tools to which it gives rise, that constitute the appeal of technology.

The blowout preventer captured in this photograph by Thomas Struth is part of a fracking plant in the American state of North Dakota. Blowout preventers act as check valves to prevent the uncontrolled release of oil or gas from a well. A failure of this device, as on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010, can result in a blowout of the resource being extracted, with disastrous damage to the environment. By extracting natural gas and crude oil by means of fracking, the United States has become largely independent of the OPEC countries in the Middle East in the first decade of the 21st century and, according to the American Department of Energy (2013), is now the world's biggest crude oil producer.

Struth's image of the blowout preventer is very appealing both in terms of composition and colour. Yet the aesthetic appeal cannot conceal the impression of physical instability of the technical equipment, behind which is revealed another, highly symbolic image of the human being ruthlessly exploiting natural resources, consuming energy, and never tiring in his efforts to create the means for doing so.

Uwe Wieczorek

<b>Thomas Struth, Blowout Preventer, Montrail County, North Dakota 2010, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.