Documentary photographer Nina Berman’s recent “Eat To Win” series is not for the faint hearted. Through her observation of eating competitions across the United States, she documents what she calls “the ferocity of consumption” and delves into the notions of frenzy and excess while depicting food as more than a necessary part of human survival. In these competitions, food becomes a source of competition, not in a necessary sense, but for entertainment. The series is comprised of close up of contestants, with their faces covered in food and savage expressions on their faces.
The competitions themselves unfold within 2 to 6 minutes, which underlines the way in which time is the most vital element of the competition. Berman’s photographs are interesting in the sense that she has chosen not to document the end result of the competition but the competition process in itself. This has resulted in a series full of intense facial expressions, a loss of manners and a visceral illustration of unbridled humanity.
Berman’s high definition close up allow you to step inside the world of eating competitions in an almost tangible manner, that brings you quite literally, face to face with the more disgusting side of being a human. She brings you into a high contrast world of overconsumption and excess and does not stray away from the greasy details. She places eating competitions at the junction of pleasure and pain, and by doing so establishes a subtle and somewhat humoristic critique of consumer society at its peak.
Sean Landers creates sometimes proud, other times dejected characters with oddly proportioned or placed body parts. Their exaggerated features help to communicate the absurdity Landers seems to see all around us. For instance, the tiny naked butterfly-eared man that stands in front of a microphone as if to try to be heard. It’s a strange proposition.
Much of Landers’ work is covered in handwritten text. It’s difficult to discern in the digital image, but the breasts with rabbit ears, aptly titled “bunny boobs” begins:
“This is preposterous, this Landers is an outrage does he expect us to take him seriously? Not only does he mock modernism but he also writes his mindless drivel all over each of his abominations. I have never read such vapid writing in my life, and his paintings are bad student work. I look at his resume and find he’s been exhibiting all around the globe for the last decade. Has everyone gone mad? Or is it that our standards have been eroded to the point that a hack like Mr. Landers is a celebrated international art star.”
The outraged tone of the fictional art critic is Landers’ response to reception of his work. He ends by saying:
“I get to vent, my paintings get better, they sell, I get confident, bash critics, they bash me back, sales stop, then I have to start over again.”
It’s not clear if this is an invented scenario, or a pattern that Landers often experiences, but certainly this kind of self-deprecating voice flows through his characters as well as in his text. Still, “bunny boob” is smiling out at the viewer (or critic) which makes it seem that it’s ultimately teasing, and maybe more lighthearted than the attitude the text sets.
In 1888, Vincent van Gogh severed his left ear with a razor blade—an act that would solidify his reputation in art history as a tortured genius. Last year, in a grim-but-fascinating project titled Sugababe, Dutch artist Diemut Strebe recreated the lost “artifact” as a living replica. She created it using 3D printing and genetic material derived from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. The ear has been sustained in a nutrient solution, and remarkably, it can hear you; using a microphone, visitors can speak to it, and the sound is processed by a computer that simulates real-time nerve impulses.
The purpose of the project is part science, part literature, part theory. It is an investigation into human replication—can the artist’s essence be reborn, or replaced? Drawing on the Theseus paradox from Plutarch, the ear invokes questions about bioengineering and authenticity. The project’s description on Strebe’s website goes into more detail:
“In the late 1st century Plutarch asked in The Life of Theseus whether a ship, which was restored by replacing all its parts, remained the same ship. In the course of time, many variations of the principle have been described. One of these variations refers to the title of the project. The famous paradox is carried out with biological material making a particular form of human replication, from historical or synthesized material, a central focus of this project. The ear is one of a series of a limited edition, made of different scientific components referring in various ways to the same principle of replacement.” (Source)
Visitors wishing to view this curiosity and “speak” to the deceased artist will be able to see it at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts’ show Free Radicals, which runs November 7th-December 5th, 2015. (Via The Creators Project)
The title of Joseph Gerhard‘s series Unmade Beds is self-explanatory. Gerhard says he thinks of these photographs as “portraits by proxy of the person who just slept there.” It is interesting to think of these as art — no two alike, ever-changing, telling a story about your form and movement — a daily unintentional installation that speaks on your behalf.