Rare Item_Image Making as A Continuous Process of Interrogation


In Rare Item, Miles Gertler produces a taxonomic index of architectural technologies. In this narrative series, objects and non-objects populate scenarios toward the production of material situations as heterotopian reflections.

In his series of prints, Scenario City, Gertler claims the abject constituents of the built environment—signage, stanchions, stakes, ropes, piles—as the critical architectural element. The overriding frameworks depicted in each image are host to a collapse of territorial properties. These speculative images propose endless ark-like vessels for the production of an other world of accidental reconfiguration, much in the way that the botanical tradition concentrates a global range of samples into a single collection or pleasure garden. In these images, architecture is not merely organizational, but constitutive of the situations produced therein. A companion guide to each image documents the naturalist imagery that populates each collage, embedding in each constructed image an index of hyperlinks to a deeper history of territorial analysis and modification. The work is preoccupied with the manufacturing of the sublime and the uncanny in the ordinary, while consciously obviating the human body in all roles but viewership.


Who influences you graphically?

I’m interested in the paintings of Alex Colville and Jeffrey Smart, and recently with northern renaissance altarpiece diptychs and triptychs. Not simply these painters, but these genres of painting and the way they’re instrumentalized to deliver attitude and tone; this all informs my work.

How and to what extent does each project influence the representation of the other?

Each project or series of images engages a few developing trajectories of ideas, and each image presents a set of decisions that I’ll later critique. I look at certain images I’ve produced and identify choices that I’ll leave behind and other moves that I want to interrogate further, in the next piece.

What defined the use of a monochromatic palette?

Colour didn’t have a role in the project I first set out to develop. There was enough to consider as it was, and my early images were framed with historical black and white photography. With my architecture office Common Accounts we use colour all the time, but the palette is always informed by our research, or the discursive context. For instance, in our project Closer Each Day: The Architecture of Everyday Death, we stole the colours of Rossi’s San Cataldo onion skin renderings to stake our counter-position for death’s re-integration with daily urban life (as opposed to the metaphysical status of death as an island in the post-modern period). We saturated his reds and blues a little too, as if always back-lit on a screen (in reference to our research around the virtual afterlife). I don’t think the images that I produce independently merit colour in the same way, and perhaps also since they dwell on the uncanny and the sublime, the desaturation and dumbing down of familiar parts forces the cognitive participation of the viewer. The black and white places these images in the realm of the other and the viewer has to acknowledge that, subconsciously or not.

What defined the texture for instrument for sublimation?

 Instrument 01: To Induce the Sublime, like all my images is printed through a fine black and white grain. All the middle grey tones that colour the image are produced through a density of black dots on a white image field. This image was produced by zooming into another I produced immediately before, and as such the grain is enlarged and more visible. The split in the diptych was originally defined by a white vertical element from the original image, Scenario Sample 06. In the cropping of Instrument 01 I wanted to play with the accident of the image’s production and the white vertical line’s definition of a split, which will eventually translate to a split in real space, on a gallery wall, when those two squares are printed independently and hung apart.

What is your work process in terms of programs used post concept?

It’s almost all “painted” in photoshop.

How does the graphic language relate to the project speculation?

In the latest Scenario City images, for instance, I use naturalist illustration to populate the architectural framework. This allows each image to connect to a deeper and dark history of territorial analysis and modification. This folds in references to the early industrial age, made in this series of images totally concerned with projection. This way of looking back is in fact a means of looking forward to the otherness that is the unknown future of this Anthropocene world.


Miles Gertler (b. 1990) trained as an architect at the Princeton University School of Architecture. He co-founded the architecture research office Common Accounts with Igor Bragado in 2015. They are recognized for their recent work Closer Each Day: The Architecture of Everyday Death, and Going Fluid: The Cosmetic Protocols of Gangnam, which was exhibited at the Third Istanbul Design Biennial in 2016.  Gertler’s second solo exhibition of images and objects opens at Toronto’s Corkin Gallery in May of 2017. His work has been profiled by Artsy, Uncube, Dezeen, Azure, and Bracket.