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Brad Troemel Collaborates With Ants To Create Colorful Abstract Installation

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Multihued translucent Plexiglas rectangles hang from the ceiling in Brad Troemel’s latest installation LIVE/WORK. They’re pleasingly abstract, reminiscent of sunsets and seashores, but look closer: each is a self-contained ant universe. The gel is edible for the ants, a commercial variant of NASA’s soil replacement, and as they tunnel and work they create patterns and movement in the art.

“Each team of ants is working on behalf of three not-for-profit organizations. The striped colors of the homes represent the colors of the not-for-profits’ logos. These organizations range from the Earth Liberation Front to Edward Snowden’s Legal Defense Fund to Planned Parenthood. At the end of this exhibition, each home’s piled up refuse from tunneling is weighed as a proxy for which team of ants did the most work digging. Whichever team’s displaced gel weighs the most wins the prize for their three organizations, splitting 10% of the proceeds from this exhibition three ways.”

The press release for the show is concerned mostly with the ants. “One must wonder – when will ant labor evolve to incorporate collaborative just-in-time tunnel building strategies, or even Fordist production lines?” It asks. “Are disruptive innovations even possible species-wide if made within isolated habitats? These are just some of the questions this generation of ants faces.” The questions are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but they raise other issues. If Troemel is relying on the ants to produce constantly changing works of art, what happens to his installation if they stop working? What if they die? The three large blank checks hang on the wall opposite the ants, underlining the financial impetus of the show. Living insects+art=profit. It’s an unusual equation, but a surprisingly lovely one. (Via Lost at E Minor)

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John Bisbees’ Incredibly Intricate Nail Sculptures

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Sculptor John Bisbee has been working exclusively with nails for the last 30 years. He finds seemingly endless ways to bend, weld, hammer and manipulate the nails into large, striking, elegant sculptures. His installations include large wall murals of geometric patterns, three dimensional flower shapes, robust seed pods, intricate star bursts, and delicately twisted spirals. Most of his forms are based off ideas of flora or fauna, on either a magnified or minute scale. He proves that even an industrial material can be coerced into something graceful, and even flimsy.

Bisbee’s mantra is “only nails, always different”, and he uses it as a guideline or reminder that you don’t need much to push the boundaries and to be creative. Narrowing his materials down even further, he has for the last decade limited himself to 12 inch steel nails known as ‘bright common’. Treating the nails as lines, Bisbee says there is not much he can’t do with this wonder material.

Bisbee discovered the potential for nails completely by chance. While rummaging through an abandoned house during his years as a college student, looking for raw materials, he came across a lump of nails, fused together in the shape of the bucket that had held them. He then proceeded to explore just how far he could corrupt the nature of nails and used them as a drawing tool and as an inspiration in and of themselves.

You think that you would sort of choke off your options and potential, the more you keep excavating a single item, but I find it’s the opposite – it explodes. There are so many amazing tangents that I haven’t had the time to take; so many great insights that are buried years back, so it’s ever expanding, this mundane object. I’m quite happy saying now that I will only work with nails. (Source)

(Via Colossal)

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The Intimate Moments Between People And Their Sex Dolls

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Early morning at the hotel in Wales. ‘Shadowman’ wakes up with his doll Carly. He has 2 adult daughters with another woman. Besides Carly he has 4 other dolls. Bianca is one of them. His dolls are not part of a daily life with his family, but everybody knows of their presence. Shadowman recently got divorced from his second wife.

Phil stopped smoking for a year to be able to afford his doll Jessica. He is aware that she's a doll, but simply doesn't care what anyone thinks about his choice of lifestyle. Phils friends all know of her existence.

Phil stopped smoking for a year to be able to afford his doll Jessica. He is aware that she’s a doll, but simply doesn’t care what anyone thinks about his choice of lifestyle. Phil’s friends all know of her existence.

Rebekka and June in the backyard of Everard. He has 12 dolls and often takes them to the garden for a photoshoot. His neighbours goes inside when he enters with his dolls. Everard has only had one relationship with a living women and has difficulties understanding women. He is lonesome but his dolls gives him kind of a comfort by their presence. The men are in general vain towards the dolls, they use a lot of time to make the hair and make up right before they picture them. That is also the reason why Rebekka and June are wearing summerhats – not to have the sharp sun in their face.

Rebekka and June in the backyard of Everard. He has 12 dolls and often takes them to the garden for a photoshoot. His neighbours go inside when he enters with his dolls. Everard has only had one relationship with a living woman and has difficulties understanding women. He is lonesome but his dolls give him kind of a comfort by their presence. The men are in general vain towards the dolls; they use a lot of time to make the hair and make up right before they picture them. That is also the reason why Rebekka and June are wearing summerhats – not to have the sharp sun in their face.

In 1986 after having their first child Chris Zachos wife filed for divorce. He was refused contact with his daughter for years. Every now and then he would try to search his daughters name on different social medias to get back in touch and a few years ago he managed to find her, now married and a mum of 2. It has been very painfull for Chris not to have been a part of his daughters life, so it was big when they finally reunited.

In 1986, after having their first child, Chris Zacho’s wife filed for divorce. He was refused contact with his daughter for years. Every now and then he would try to search his daughter’s name on different social medias to get back in touch and a few years ago he managed to find her, now married and a mum of 2. It has been very painful for Chris not to have been a part of his daughter’s life, so it was big when they finally reunited.

While, since its popularization in the 1990s, the phenomenon of sex dolls—life-sized and lifelike synthetic figures intended both as erotic objects and as stand-in companions—has been riddled with condemnation, Danish photojournalist Benita Marcussen seeks to shed these judgments through her series, Men & Dolls.

Following a group of six male doll-owners, Men & Dolls documents the individuals’ relationships with the anatomically-correct mannequins and provides an intimate glimpse into this controversial lifestyle. While the identities and situations of the subjects greatly vary—two men are married with children, two have been through a divorce, one was once betrothed in a dead-end engagement, and one has never had a girlfriend—they have one very apparent thing in common: they each consciously turn to dolls as a means to alleviate their loneliness.

This is why, in the photoseries, Marcussen does not solely focus on the sexual aspect of neither the dolls nor the relationships that they facilitate. She presents, rather, images that convey the ways in which the men incorporate the dolls into their daily lives and treat them as sentient—albeit intimate—companions.

Ultimately, whether clad in a sun hat and seated outdoors, dolled up in formal attire, carried around on a romantic pseudo-stroll, or wrapped in an embrace on a bed, it is clear that each doll featured in Men & Dolls is so much more than a sex toy. (Via Feature Shoot)

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An Interactive, Illuminated Tunnel Installation That Appears To Breathe

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Renowned for its experimental installations and out-of-this-world designs, self-proclaimed “spatial laboratory” Loop.pH crafts site-specific, highly collaborative works all over the world. For their latest piece, Atmeture, the studio has created an illuminated structure that, through the use of vitreous, inflatable membranes and a system of air pumps and circulating smoke, appears to breathe.

Woven from thin fibres comprising a geometric trellis, the structure is cited as “an ephemeral luminous architectural tunnel that draws visitors into an open and animated form woven from lightweight fibres.” As viewers walk through the tunnel, they become surrounded by swirling smoke and ethereal luminescence and are able to interact with the seemingly sentient structure.

Like much of Loop.pH’s pieces, Atmeture was imagined and created as a site-specific piece. Commissioned by onedotzero, a cultural organization praised for “curating and producing memorable and engaging events, exhibitions and experiences,” Atmeture was intended for Letchworth’s ‘Fire & Fright Festival,’ which took place from October 28 through November 5, 2014.

While Atmeture’s glowing presence in the festival has unfortunately come and gone, you can still take a stroll through the otherworldly tunnel with the click of a mouse! Be sure to check out the video for the living, breathing experience. (Via The Creators Project)

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Striking Celebrity Portraits By Frank Bauer

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German photographer Frank Bauer takes celebrity portraits. It’s an interesting conundrum, capturing a famous face on film. The picture is taken because the audience wants to see that well-known (if not loved) face, but the resulting image is of a sight we’re used to seeing. How, then, to make the ubiquitous new again?

In Bauer’s skilled hands, the celebrities seem to relax. The inner sanctum opens a bit, and the person behind the celebrity peeks out. Actress Tilda Swinton, known for her androgynous fierceness, softens. Cool, coture-wearer Cate Blanchette smolders. Clearly not camera ready, director Steve McQueen stifles a yawn. Musician Iggy Pop looks stripped of artifice in his rear-view mirror shot.

For all the personal exposures in his work, Bauer is remarkably hard to find. His website is neatly organized, with a news section that documents his recent work, but there’s no “I” there, no personal commentary or gossip. Same with his Facebook page: friendly-seeming and public and absolutely impersonal. Perhaps it’s his way of creating a void, one that these performers will want to fill. Maybe he’s seen what it means to reveal oneself. It could be a business decision, an unconscious choice, a cautious reticence. Whatever the reason, Frank Bauer, unlike his famous subjects, is a bit of a cipher, one who lets his intimate and beautiful work speak for him. (Via It’s Nice That)

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Robert Larson Turns The Ugly & Destructive Act Of Smoking Cigarettes Into Something Unexpectedly Beautiful

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Robert Larson uses discarded cigarettes packaging, matchbooks, and rolling papers to create his compositions. Somewhat reminiscent of Tom Fruin’s drug baggies, the artist creates abstract patterns from smoking paraphernalia, and turns the ugly and destructive act of smoking into something unexpectedly beautiful.

Larson finds the materials by scavenging neighbourhoods in Santa Cruz, where he lives and works. There’s an interesting play between personal and impersonal in his work. The consistent grid of the items, be it shiny packaging or used matches, gives a sense of the systemic nature of urban life, while their individual treatment – worn by weather or use – sustains a sense of individual experience.

Cigarettes are rarely if ever associated with beauty, at least in our moment. Certainly in the past they were glamourized, but happily, people are beginning to see quite clearly their highly detrimental effect. Still, they maintain a heavy presence, and it’s exciting to see something positive come out of a predominantly negative thing. Larson’s compositions are surprisingly colourful and dynamic. He has a good eye for placement, as in the Marlboro packaging where he distributes the various tones of grey-brown wear to radiate outwards from the middle of the work. His pieces are mostly quite large, reaching over six feet. It makes me wonder how long it would take him to collect his materials, which could give him some understanding of the smoking population of each neighbourhood he collects from.

Images courtesy of CES Gallery

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Chris Burkard’s Breathtaking Photos Of People Surfing Among Glaciers And Snow

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Chris Burkard is a photographer based in Central Coast, California. He captures lifestyle and action sports, and some of his most compelling works are these pictures of people surfing among the snow-covered mountains in places liked Iceland, Norway, and Alaska. There’s a cognitive dissonance that comes from viewing these photos – surfing is typically a warm-weather sport that doesn’t seem like it’d mix with the cold temperatures. But here, Burkard’s subjects are traipsing among glaciers and a white landscape in their head-to-toe wet suits.

Despite the initial reaction of “buuuurrrrr,” there’s a palpable bliss in Burkard’s idyllic photos. The natural beauty is undeniable no matter the temperature. Skies are clear, the water is blue, and it’s all made even brighter with the peppered throughout. Burkard purposely searches for wild, remote destinations, and, according to him, “portrays the humble placement of the human in contrast to nature.

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Pictures Of Hardship: A Photo Essay Of Americans In Debt

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Photographer Brittany M. Powell has an ambitious project worthy of your support. She has embarked on a project of taking portraits of people that have incurred debt. Having already taken at least 15 photographs of different individuals, she has a Kickstarter project to help realize her goal of 99 different portraits. After losing her own job in 2008 and facing severe financial hardship, Powell decided to find others in a similar situation, to tell their stories  and to dispel the social stigma surrounding bankruptcy, debt and talking about money issues in general. She says this about her project:

This [project] spurred my interest in investigating the role debt can play in our identity and how we relate to the world. Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized, but is almost always privately experienced. It is in many ways an abstract form without material weight or structure, yet with heavy physicality and burden in a person’s everyday life. (Source)

Her subjects include James Riggs Davidson III who is an electrical contractor with a total debt of $52,335.63, Grace Ragland a family support worker with $75,000 in debt after her ex-husband was incarcerated and she became the sole carer of her family. She ended up working 2-3 jobs 7 days a week for 7 years. The range of people Powell profiles is so varied she really shows how common this problem is today.

My goal is to bring people together to recontextualize an abstract, often shamed experience. It is my hope that by having a platform to discuss this issue, it will encourage the viewer and participants to question and reframe our perception of debt and how we contribute to it’s power and role in our social structure. (Source)

To support her project visit her Kickstarter page here.

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