Mithu Sen did not begin her career in visual expression. Her work has evolved quite a bit to get to the point of creating an 80-foot long installation that is essentially one giant denture. She began as a poet, inspired by her mother, writing in Bengali as a child. She was published quite a few times before she moved to Delhi and began to lose her connection to her mother tongue. Afterwards, she made the transition to “artist.”
Her artwork now is often categorized as highly sexual. She has said of this: “I don’t really care if my sexual works are the reason people are looking. Sexuality is the means by which one can enter the self and the psyche. The so-called sexual overtone in my work is to provoke and trap people, to force them to see and to contemplate. I’ve tried to bring tabooed sexuality out of the closet… I try to draw sexuality from both living and inanimate objects.”
Definitely her work pushes boundaries, but in her drawings as in Border Unseen (the tooth wall) there are details and subtleties to be discovered beneath the most obvious aspects of her work. On Border Unseen, little figurines of people, skulls, toys, etc. of similar dimensions to the teeth, are camouflaged all throughout the installation. Likewise, although her drawings are overtly and uncomfortably sexual – as in the piece where a finger seems to be inserted inside an animal within which is another animal – if you are able to overcome the initial disturbance, there’s a great deal of tenderness below. Although the work is challenging, it is not so heavy-handed, and always demands more open-mindedness of the viewer; always a worthwhile exercise. (Via BOMB Magazine)
Evelyn Bencicova’s photography is stark and haunting, which could probably in part be attributed to the headless-ness of her subjects in most of her works. The colouring is sterile, and the figures’ body language imitates the stillness of their environment. Although each naked body touches at least one other, there is no sense of sexuality or pleasure. The bodies seem like one larger, unified organism, like some strange jellyfish or starfish. They splay themselves over surfaces, as if they’ve been washed up across the desk they rigidly lie on. They are compelling because although logically you realize you’re seeing a human body, they lack any recognizable aspects. It’s near impossible to feel empathy or understanding without facial features or visible imperfections or distinguishing character. It is especially with so many clones together. The series is an interesting experiment in identifying what defines our living human character.
I want to apologize in advance for making this comparison, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m reminded of the film Human Centipede. Of course, conceptually they are completely opposite, one being completely vile and horrific, the other pleasantly vacant. Still, if the Human Centipede were instead an experimental art film, maybe it would be the Human Starfish, and the film was about a multi-human entity that slowly explored an abandoned hospital or institution, these photos would be the stills. (Via Daily Metal)
Jess Riva Cooper’s ceramic sculptures are as beautiful as they are disgusting. Her works have the viewer going back and forth between pleasure and revulsion, creating a welcome confusion to be examined. This juxtaposition of attractive and off-putting elements is not a new phenomenon in art – think Jessica Harrison’s ceramic women, and whose work we’ve featured on Beautiful/Decay – and although her artwork is also similarly violent, the aggression is expressed quite differently. Cooper’s busts are overtaken by plants, leaves, and sometimes bugs, which are often gagging or otherwise obstructing the female’s sensory capacities. The plants grow from the women’s heads, the leaves with an almost leech-like gesture extend out with determination.
It’s painful to see the women bound by nature in this way, also because, as a bust, they are without arms or hands to defend themselves. She renders the women with a great deal of skill, their expressions soft and subtle. In her artist statement she speaks about nature reclaiming its place and “a loss of control…as the parasitic entity subsumes the host” as well as her interest in sculpting the figure as a way to illustrate “physical and emotional vulnerability of the individual.” She addresses these themes plainly in her work, which is what makes it so successful and enjoyable.
Often there is a thick line that separates the fact of human and animal conscience. Brad Wilson’s portraits demonstrate the profound character each of his animal subjects possess. Wilson is a commercial photographer used to working with human subjects. His lens creates a bridge between humanity and the animal kingdom, allowing us to contemplate the gap that is likely much narrower than we believe between ourselves and other living creatures. His photographs allow us to recognize ourselves within the animals, in some way, their humanity (although of course, not literally).
His experience in taking the photographs is extremely enlightening. Below are excerpts from a Bored Panda article.
“The animals engender an amazing sense of relationship that is primal in its roots and profound in the moment. I learned that they are what we, as humans, used to be: completely present in the moment and curious about the immediate enviroment around them, and living primarily through instinct and intuition.”
Tigers have quite a presence in the studio. There were some rather awe-inspiring, fear-inducing moments when you realized just how physically powerful they were. Overall though, with a camera in front of my face, I felt strangely removed from the environment around me. I was simply unaware of any intimidation or danger. Of course, this was a complete illusion, but it served me well.”
“I’m after something very specific – a moment where mood, composition, and stillness come together to reveal something uncommon and unexpected. I’m looking for unique connection to my subject that shows something deeper and more intimate to the viewer and treats the animals as equals, affording them all the respect and dignity I would offer any person in front of my camera. Hopefully this makes my series different from most other animal photography, but that’s ultimately up to each individual seeing the work to decide.”
The Centro Financiero Confinanzas Skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, has been home to 3000 squatting residents since October 2007. Alejandro Cegarra took five months to create The Other Side of the Tower, a photo-series that documents the lives of the abandoned building’s inhabitants. Although it is in no way an ideal life – Cegarra reports that there are places without railings where drunk people or children have fallen, and that the water and electrical systems are not adequate – the Tower of David, as it has been nicknamed, is a place where people have created their homes to live mostly peacefully.
Cegarra’s photographs provide a candid look at the community, and how they have developed the unfinished building into something livable. There are shops, and even an unlicensed dentist working in the building. Although the elevators do not work, people ride motorcycles up to the 10th floor in place of them. Residents live up to the 28th floor, meaning some walk 18 flights of stairs even with the use of a motorcycle.
The photo-series brings up an interesting issue of living standards and help versus enforcement. After difficult negotiation, government officials agreed in July to move hundreds of families to new social housing in Cua, south of Caracas. There has apparently been interest expressed in developing the rest of the building for its original purpose, but the government states it is open to a dialogue concerning the use of the building. Still, considering some residents would have been living there for 7 years, is dislocation the best option? Could the government have invested money in developing the building as a better home to those who already live there, or is it a-moral to nurture inherently unstable conditions.
Cegarra’s photographs help to illustrate the perspective of those most affected. Although his own lens may equally distort in favour of the tower’s inhabitants, romanticizing their condition, it may be closer to the truth than anything else offered. Ultimately, it should be the inhabitant’s needs that are considered the most heavily.
Cegarra has been awarded the Ian Parry Scholarship for The Other Side of the Tower. (Via TIME Lightbox)
James Nares makes one seemingly fluid stroke full of action to create his paintings. His artwork is extremely minimalist, and full of expression. The viewer can follow the stroke like a path, witnessing his every step in the splashes, interruptions, and slight wavers. His colour palette is vibrant, mostly blues and greens, with luminous whites and sensuous reds. They’re very three dimensional, the ones running horizontally seem to move like long slithering dragons or snakes.
It’s interesting to consider the time it may take Nares to create each one. Although they appear to be quite speedy, it must take either a great deal of control or repeated attempts to produce such pointed work. The works aren’t redundant, nor are they overloaded. Although each is done with a repeated strategy, they are executed with refinement. His artwork actually reminds me of Alberto Seveso’s Disastro Ecologico series. We have featured other work of his before, here.
Nares has said of his own work:
“I try to embody the nature and combine the forms—it’s like one and one making three—to expose a metaphor of some kind. It’s searching for metaphors, for likeness, like a breeding ground. It seems to me, that’s how a language develops. Everything breeds through metaphors.”
Jon Rafman has been featured a few times on Beautiful/Decay, but this time it is for his 9-eyes blog curation project. It’s named 9-eyes for the camera Google Maps uses to create ‘Street View’, and he has managed to find some very captivating images. Each one holds mystery, as you wonder how such a moment might have been captured. Some are more easily explained than others, of course, such as the blue car run into a ditch. Others are not so much mysterious as seemingly improbable or exciting (how did it happen that the monkey looked straight at the camera just as the Google Van rolled by?) The most interesting, though, are the ones for which you cannot find an explanation. Here is where your imagination runs free, and the magic happens. This is because of the uniformity of the format, and our familiarity with Google ‘Street View’.
It is understood that Google ‘Street View’ photographs are taken by a camera atop a van as it journeys across the world. It is firmly stationed in reality. Still, we are provided with these surreal images, captured entirely by chance. It’s exciting, and creates wonder in the viewer to see something that is difficult to imagine could be real, yet seemingly must be, because it’s actually less believable that it isn’t. Having seen Donnie Darko, I can’t help but imagine that the watery trail left behind the vehicle in the second picture is that same kind of time path. Obviously it is not, but what makes these images so exceptional is that they did happen, whether by error or by some means outside our rational understanding, and so we are allowed to let ourselves imagine how they’ve come to be. It’s the closest we come to objective documentation of the world we live in, and it still manages to be surprising without our purposeful interference.
Eli Durst takes photographs of things that should be boring. Somehow his point of view makes them completely captivating. Each one described in its essence, such as a turtle in a tank, or two men eating in a McDonalds parking lot, seems utterly unexciting. Seeing the photograph, though, there will always be something that will catch your eye and draw you in. A lot of it has to do with timing. He picks exactly the right moment, when the turtle pokes its head out of the water, or the woman with red hair tilts her head just so. The moments he captures seem pristine, although often they are anything but. How hard is it to ascribe pristine as the adjective to a teepeed tree? Still for Durst it seems the only appropriate word.
His series’ are eclectic, and so it is his aesthetic that holds them together, though patterns can emerge in the subject matter. There is a great deal of portraiture and focus on food, for instance. Together, each mix tells a story of a place (America), its people (normal), and their accompanying details (pets, a deep burn in someone’s back, or the most uninspired food spread I’ve ever seen). It’s really in these details that you get lost in wonder. Durst makes the normal totally enthralling.