The pollution crisis in China is reaching an all time high. With over 500,000 people dying each year from diseases related to the air quality, it’s a time for action. A company in China called Xiao Zhu has decided to educate the public on just how serious the matter is. They have literally shone a light on the culprits – by projecting images of crying children’s faces onto the guilty factories’ billowing towers of smoke and pollution. As most of the victims of air pollution are children, this artistic protest has a hard hitting message. Stop now, or the future generations will continue to suffer.
The faces themselves are quite hard to stomach. Twisted and contorted faces fade in and out of the smoke clouds. Young boys are covering their mouths with masks trying to breathe without pain. It is an emotionally charged subject, and the company normally responsible for selling air filters have tapped into the drama of the situation. Their creative approach to such a huge environmental problem is working – people are noticing and spreading the word.
Xiao Zhu write this statement to accompany their video on Youtube:
We decided to put a spotlight on air pollution’s biggest culprits—the factories—by using the actual pollution from the factories as a medium…. Clean the air, let the future breathe again. (Source)
Not only is this a message for the whole nation, and world, but most specifically for the industry that is causing the damage. And I’m sure they won’t be able to avoid looking up at their own factories and see the mess they are creating. (Via The Creator’s Project)
There’s a change happening in a small, rural community in Costa Rica. Latin American satellite company Claro has joined forces with local artists to help housewives advertise and grow their own businesses. In a place where few luxury items can be afforded, every household is certain to have a TV – and also an accompanying satellite dish. So, with the help of creative agency ‘Ogilvy & Mather Costa Rica’, Claro have come up with idea of how to better utilize those dishes for the local residents.
Painted with as many different logos and themes as you can think of, the bright, folksy designs are grabbing all the right kinds of attention. Now, instead of having to rely on word of mouth, or neighbors stopping by occasionally, the women can advertise their goods and services much easier – and to more people. The charming designs advertise making tortillas, ice cream, piñatas, selling flowers, strawberries, eggs, or offering sewing alterations, or haircuts. Now, not only are the women attracting more customers, they are also empowered to think bigger, and to perhaps change their own financial destiny. (Via Lost At E Minor)
Recent university graduate Claudio De Luca has been experimenting with merging traditional sculptural methods with new technologies and coming up with some exciting results. He works with ceramics, bronze casting, wax and wood for the base of her artworks, and builds on them using modern, digital-based techniques. His final year’s work at the Cardiff School of Art and Design featured a series of ceramic skulls and heads that were filled with different material, and had cubic shapes bursting out from their fronts.
De Luca has been trying his hand at laser cutting, 3D printing, 3D scanning, 3D modelling, and CNC machining. The combination of these different methods are a nice metaphor for the subject of De Luca’s work. He explores the ideas of identity and representation in a modern world, and especially how we present ourselves in the digital world. He says:
Ones portrayal of themselves in an online ecosystem is largely skewed, this is a feature of who they should be, never are the insecurities shown or the flaws revealed. Vulnerabilities such as these are how we define our best attributes and ultimately forge long lasting relationships.
I look at how the facets of ones self are greatly lessened when choosing what information to construct in the digital space, through 3D scanning a person, I digitally ‘decimate’ the facets their faces are made of thus abstracting there true self. This I feel is what would best visually represent ones online identity in a digital setting. The less facets to be seen, the less a person is truly showing of themselves.
He uses the shapes in her work as a metaphor for the two realities merging – the physical and the digital. The effect of these ‘hollow faces’ are a scary reflection of what type of people we are becoming in this digital age. It makes you want to check your own reflection in the mirror, doesn’t it?
It may be hard to believe, but these colorful creations of Jason Hackenwerth‘s are made from hundreds of balloons. He twists and sculpts latex balloons around each other to resemble different kinds of organic and biological forms. Hackenwerth creates all sorts of creepy shapes and forms that look like you are seeing something in a scientist’s laboratory magnified. Super colorful amoeba, cells, or rhizopods hang from the ceiling. Bacteria-shaped sculptures are grouped together, sprouting weird sorts of growths in every direction.
The artist is not only inspired by science – last year, Hackenwerth unveiled a large piece in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Titled Pisces, it is an interpretation of the Greek myth about Aphrodite and Eros. Made from over 10,000 balloons, it was a massive twisting spiral of two fish and took three staff members almost 6 days to blow up. Hackenwerth says more about it:
I see this as a metaphor for the evolution for life and the unexpected ways we can transcend our greatest threats. My plan for Pisces is to create a complex spiral that will open into a huge seashell like form. This spiral will correspond with the dynamic with the motion of the universe – the double helix. It is the spiral from which all life is derived. (Source)
Hackenwerth starts his process with drawings and sketches to help visualize how his pieces will work on a large scale. He then inflates balloons and arranges them in various structures to see what will work for the final piece. He talks about the importance of his medium:
Using balloons as a medium for expression came from a desire to connect with a wider audience. Balloons are accessible and they seem to have a magic ability for people to feel joy. Perhaps it is a regression to childhood. (Source)
Dutch artist Ruud Van Empel is following in the footsteps of his Flemish ancestors and is creating some pretty confronting portraits. He digitally collages images of innocent, wide eyed children into environments of lush, hyper-colored, tropical forests, ponds and gardens. While his pictures are in no doubt beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, there is definitely something unsettling about them. The children seem a bit out of place – staring a bit too intensely at the camera as if they were possessed or hypnotized. Everything seems a bit too perfect, a bit too beautiful.
Van Empel sometimes spends weeks collating images from multiple sources to build one digital portrait. The reason his portraits seem so weird is because they are pictures of people that don’t really exist. This is a bit of an insight into his process:
First he collects all the features he needs by shooting a variety of young models in his studio and by subsequently wandering through Dutch forests, in search of fine leaves, perfect branches and the right waters. Only to tear it apart and spend weeks reconstructing it all until both the person and the setting match his desired standard of photo-realism. (Source)
It can also not go unnoticed that a majority of the kids in Van Empel’s photography are black. The artist himself grew up in a small Dutch village with a large white population. He speaks more about this influencing his work:
I grew up in a small Catholic town in the south of the Netherlands. There was only one black boy in my primary school class. In the portrait Generation 1 I expressed this situation. It shows a white class with just one black pupil. With World#1 I decided to work with more black children. It set off a whole new series of work. First I thought of portraying a girl in a dirty, old and torn-up dress, as if she were very poor. I suppose this idea popped up in my head because of the image we westerners are often given. I didn’t really like that idea though, and decided to give them the clothes my generation wore when we were kids, especially because those clothes looked very innocent to me. (Source)
Flemish photographer Sanne De Wilde enjoys telling a good anti-fairytale. She undertakes photographic journeys to track down and narrate stories that we don’t often hear about, or get to see. Her project Snow White captures a variety of people with Albinism. Characterized as skin, eyes and/or hair lacking in any pigment, Albinism is still quite rare and misunderstood. Many people are unsure how to react to it. De Wilde is aware that most people, when faced with something they don’t understand, they will alienate and shun that ‘abnormal’ thing. She wants to explore these feelings further and explore her own curiosity about this condition.
Like photographic material, people with albinism are light sensitive. Light leaves an irreversible imprint on their body. This whiteness that makes them stand out, when captured in an image, almost makes them dissolve, consumed by the light. Their eyes can hardly bear it. Nevertheless they have the power to look back at us, the viewer, and embody a human-mirror. (Source)
Her photographs are quiet, eerie and haunting. As she says, they act as a mirror for the viewer, and reflect whatever emotions we transfer on to them. It is a visual reminder that when we bully someone, it says more about the bully, rather than the bullied. These photographs say more about our society and our personal attitudes towards the ‘abnormal’ and ‘other’. She goes on to say:
They are a metaphor, a symbol for stereotypes, they magnify the erroneous idea of human weaknesses and physical fragility but also that of an invincible strength. Touched by their breath-taking beauty, in this series, I try to create a powerful impression of this fragile snow white. (Source)
De Wilde has also taken photographs of a tiny village in Southern China which has a high population of ‘little people’. You can see that series – The Dwarf Empirehere. (Via Beautiful Surface)
Dutch artist Rosa Verloop uses nylon stockings and pins to create fleshy forms that look like newborns and octogenarians at the same time. She makes little folds, tucks and pleats in beige colored nylon so they resemble some strange sort of primordial life form. Working organically, she groups the stockings in different lumps and bumps and holds them in place with tiny stitches and tacks. Verloop’s sculptural faces are ones filled with deep-set wrinkles telling of well earned wisdom. Her human forms are contorted and twisted like they are in a state of being born or dying.
People in general experience these shapes as a deformation of the human body. For myself however, these are shapes with so much power, vulnerability and silence together–and therefore such inspiring–that I leave them in the way they came into being. I don’t change anything to these shapes or only very little. (Source)
Verloop not only creates and displays her human forms, but Verloop also participates in puppet events and shows with them. She performs alongside her sculptures, moving their appendages ever so slightly and mesmerizingly slow – like the creatures are dying in real time in front of the audience. The responses to her pieces range from disgust to wonderment. Verloop explains:
It’s amazing to see how some people observe with horror my sculptures while others are so attracted to get to touch them. […] As an artist, my intent is to spread a story, offering a feeling who stumbles into my sculptures. (Source)
Be sure to see more of her unique organic sculptures after the jump and decide for yourself if it’s attraction or repulsion.
Swiss artist Fabian Bürgy is a master of deception and trickery. His practice combines installation, sculpture and digital imagery. By subtly and playfully manipulating mundane objects and the space they are in, he creates beautifully surreal situations. Bürgy is inspired by the most mundane of things – from chairs and suicide belts to tire marks, holes, ladders, nails and even dog tails, and he changes the way in which they are used. He has the power to fool our eyes and make us look twice at what we are seeing.
In Bürgy’s hands, an empty gallery space will now have a black hole disappearing through the floor. He will place some black dust in the corner of a room in such a clever way it will look like the wall is bending strangely or lifting up from the corner. Or he will boldly put a ‘crack’ in the floor like an earthquake had ruined the expensive gallery floor the day before and no one noticed. His work is understated, minimalistic, poetic and striking. He transforms, misplaces, and destroys the things we see around us everyday.
A personal favorite work of his has to be ‘A lonely and misplaced black cloud floating in space‘. It’s a beautiful combination of elegance, melancholy and stillness. There is a tension in his work, or a feeling of being unsettled, but the feeling is not so uncomfortable it can’t be enjoyed. Bürgy is able to straddle many contradictions – stillness and movement; familiarity and strangeness; function and non function; real and virtual. He is a clever sculptor who fully understands the words ‘concept’ and ‘art’.