For Oliver Boberg, who lives and works in Fürth, Germany, the most vital and transporting aspect of a good story is setting. In the six enormous multi-image panels from his Seiten/Pages series at Quality Pictures, that's literally all viewers get. With no hint of human existence save a few lit windows in the distance, these spaces are eerily empty. It's a world populated with spindly, leafless trees and windy park paths, the sterile architecture of municipal buildings, and vacant lots. And while these images already tempt viewers to project their imaginations—if not themselves—into these locations, Boberg adds another layer to the interpretive act. All but one piece in the show juxtaposes multiple images in groupings of twos and threes. This approach demands that viewers construct some narrative relations between the fragmented scenes. Considering how wide open these spaces are, both literally and figuratively, that's a somewhat daunting task. Almost inevitably, such stark environments imply some imperceptible catastrophe that has entirely eradicated humanity.
Interestingly, Boberg's labor-intensive practice accounts for this unsettling sense of absence. That is, if these places appear conspicuously void of people, it's because they're not real places at all. Boberg's photographs are actually of meticulously constructed scale models of imagined locales. Although this is a critical component of his creative process, it's hardly apparent from looking at the work on its own. Certainly, it's testament to the verisimilitude of his models, but it also redeems them on a conceptual level. Without this knowledge, Boberg's panels could be mistaken for the glut of amateurish photographers who attempt to approximate listlessness and ennui through desolate, unpopulated landscapes.
That's not to say that Boberg's pieces are without aesthetic merits. Similar to Candida Höfer's exquisite photographs of interior spaces, they are obsessively formal, pitting the rigid geometry of edifices against the unpredictable lines of nature. "Seite 4/Page 4" best explores the possibilities of juxtaposing multiple images. In this piece, an enormous image of a wall and a garage ramp dominates the panel. To the left, its lines spill over into two different images. A swooping arc from the bottom of the wall continues in a tiny curve of the edge of a swimming pool. Likewise, the straight line marked by top of the wall recurs in a third image, in which three skeletal trees foreground another wall. Even if a viewer cannot easily discern some uniting thread between the three images, this formal continuity binds them together—and grounds them in the quietly haunting terrain of Boberg's imagery.