Coulie, Border Collie/ Golden Retriever cross, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
Taken by Coulie
San Diego-based photographer Chris Keeney might have orchestrated the series PetCam, but it’s not his artistic eye that captured the shots. No, instead he handed the job over to an unlikely set of collaborators: animals, including his dog Fred and cat Alice. Chickens, pigs, cows, and guinea pigs living all around the world partake in the fun with a lightweight camera that’s tailored to their size. Keeny set the shutter to click at specified intervals of time that range from a fraction of a second to many seconds.
The photographer stresses that these cameras don’t impede the movement or happiness of the subjects, and they’re given free reign to go about their day: exploring sights and sounds, relaxing under a car, and scaling rooftops. For us, the results present a view that we don’t often see – one that’s from the vantage point of an animal. Some of the photos are distorted, others confusing, but all are intriguing; they provide us a look into what catches these creatures’ eyes as the move throughout the world.
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.
Photographer Richard Mosse has been capturing life in Eastern Congo for over 3 years. His work is a surreal representation of the beauty and tragedy in war and destruction. Using Kodak Aerochrome, a 16mm infrared film, originally designed for military reconnaissance, he depicts soldiers and landscapes in a sickly, hyper-real candyfloss pink.
The film registers chlorophyll in live vegetation and depicts the lush Congolese landscape in vibrant hues invisible to the human eye. His photographs are bizarre images of soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms in different shades of magenta, holding babies or guns.
His latest film project “The Enclave” is an attempt to make visible the invisible. Since 1998, over 5 million people have been killed from war-related causes in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Tackling an issue that is relatively unheard of, Mosse says in a recent interview with the British Journal of Photography:
“I wanted to export this technology to a harder situation, to up-end the generic conventions of calcified mass-media narratives and challenge the way we’re allowed to represent this forgotten conflict… I wanted to confront this military reconnaissance technology, to use it reflexively in order to question the ways in which war photography is constructed.”
The idea of The Impossible Image is central to his work. Both relating to capturing something usually unseen, and also working in an area of the world usually inaccessible to, and not documented by artists – that of war journalism.
By using this rare filming technique, Mosse challenges our very perception of war and violence. He is able to pick out a whole different side of military life, encouraging curiosity, and definitely empathy.
Although he has been dead a few years, the enigmatic and masterfully talented Sigmar Polke (1941- 2010) is not soon to be forgotten. Largely evasive of being pin-pointed into any one area of craft, Polke was an exceptional postwar generation artist who crossed all genres and utilized his excessive wit and intelligence to comment on the world he lived in. The largest showing of his work to date is being presented at various museums in the world. Having just closed at the MoMA in New York, it will open up for exhibition at the Tate Modern in October 2014 before going to the Museum Ludwig in Germany in 2015.
“Sigmar Polke (German, 1941–2010) was one of the most voraciously experimental artists of the twentieth century. This retrospective is the first to encompass the unusually broad range of mediums he worked with during his five-decade career, including painting, photography, film, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, television, performance, and stained glass, as well as his constant, highly innovative blurring of the boundaries between these mediums. Masquerading as many different artists—making cunning figurative paintings at one moment and abstract photographs the next—he always eluded easy categorization.
Beneath Polke’s irreverent wit, promiscuous intelligence, and chance operations lay a deep skepticism of all authority—artistic, familial, religious, and governmental. It would be impossible to understand this attitude, and the creativity that grew out of it, without considering Polke’s biography and its setting in twentieth-century European history: in 1945, near the end of World War II, his family fled Silesia (in present-day Poland) for what would soon be Soviet-occupied East Germany, and then escaped again, this time to West Germany, in 1953. Polke grew up at a time when many Germans deflected blame for the atrocities of the Nazi period with the alibi “I didn’t see anything.”
Polke scrutinized the malleability of vision. Highly attuned to the differences between appearance and reality, he was wary of the notion that there might be one universal truth. His relentlessly inventive works, ranging in size from the intimacy of a notebook to monumental paintings, collapse conventional distinctions—between high culture and low, figuration and abstraction, the heroic and the banal—allowing flux, rather than stability, to prevail.”
Don’t forget to go to London and see it in person! It’s only a plane away!
While these images might look like strange and surreal landscapes, they are actually macro images of different creatures. Armenian photographer Suren Manvelyan’s series Animal Eyes captures an extreme viewpoint that gives the average eye an otherworldly feel. The crackles, vibrant colors, and individual hairs are all visual in these beautiful photos. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Manvelyan’s handiwork – he’s also shown the human eye in incredible detail.
Manvelyan is not just a photographer, but also holds a PhD in theoretical physics. In these images he combines technology, science, and art to show us something that’s unexpectedly familiar. We see brilliant blue pools, red rings, and crystallized whites; the close proximity makes this work appears as places to go hiking rather than something like a parrot’s eyes. (Via Featureshoot)
You won’t find cadavers or skeletal remains in ceramic artist Cynthia Consentino’s “Exquisite Corpse Series.” The project takes its name from the Parisian Surrealist parlor game, in which each player wrote a word or drew an image on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal it, and passed it to the next player for his or her contribution. The results were wildly incongruous poems and images, gathered ideas from many minds.
In Consentino’s series, hers is the only mind at work, and the results are strangely charming and more than a little disturbing. The hybrid figures combine animal with human and the occasion household object. They play with the idea of gender stereotypes, something that began to interest the artist after reading a study where five-year-olds were asked to name a representational animal.
“The boys identified with animals that were predatory, and the girls with animals that were cute and cuddly. One girl even answered with a flower. I thought that there would also be girls who wanted to be tigers, but then I remembered loving playing a flower in a school play at that age. (Source)”
To loosen these gender constructs, she made varied heads, torsos, and legs then assembled them in ceramic sculptures of various configurations, some almost life-size. With their softly rounded limbs and pastel and pretty color palette they can seem almost sweet, but the fierce wolves heads and deadly weapons belie their innocence.
“My style seems a bit nostalgic, something from the fifties, or from folk art. It derives much of its character from children’s things: fairy tale, cartoons, dolls, games, as well as the domestic world. The work often incorporates imagery that is loaded with symbolism and history, such as flowers, animals and the ceramic figurine. It is very much about the familiar, things of our dreams, our stories, our childhood. (Source)”
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.
These ink drawings, saturated with detail, are the masterwork of Seattle artist Olivia Knapp. Knapp utilizes classic shading techniques from the Baroque period, putting a real spin on the classic still life. At first glance, her work appears to be a mishmash of objects borrowed from an antiquated medical book. Knapp orchestrates a hyper-stylized version of everyday elements within American culture: a Fruit Loops box, some headphones, items rigidly anchored to the 21st century American lexicon. In these drawings, they appear in a different light, making the items far more mysterious and surreal than we know them to be. The black crosshatching weaves in an inexplicable amount of detail, with forms that are tight from a distance and dissolve into their own internal network of lines when viewed in detail.
Her work stretches leisurely throughout the frame, exhibiting a sort of spaciousness that is vastly composed of the winding structures of arteries stemming from the heart, or twisted plants and snakes. The arteries of a heart grip a spoon to eat a bowl of cereal, the brain hovers, listening to music; often what could have been a normal picture reduced to its mere elements, the heart the symbolic structure indicating man, or human, yet everything contorts into everything else like Salvador Dali’s melting clocks. The marriage of a new symbol presented with an old technique is nothing new, but Knapp has found a way to express it that is entirely bizarre, interesting, and unique.