Swiss Artist Zimoun creates sound sculptures and installation art that is a little bit strange. Equal parts raw, industrial materials; equal parts mechanical elements, he creates rooms full of what seem like living and breathing objects. He combines cardboard boxes, plastic bags, old furniture, packaging tape, wires, light tubes, cotton balls and motors to transform a space into something very unexpected.
His low-fi sound architecture follows on in John Cage’s footsteps, an artist he says he thought a lot about when he was younger. Zimoun explains his fascination with combining sound, strong visual elements and bringing obsolete technology to life:
I’m interested in a mix of living structures on the one hand, and control about decisions and details on the other. A combination of structures continuously generating or evolving by chance, chain reactions or other generative systems, and a specifically delimited and contained space in which these events are allowed to happen.
By drawing our attention to these often over-looked, or under-valued materials, Zimoun forces us to examine the nature in industrial materials, and the industrial in nature.
His sound sculptures are a combination of clean modernist structures, and the forces of chaos reacting against each other. We see how the patterns and rhythms of machines slowly change, the longer they are allowed to run. Like Cage, Zimoun allows a great deal of chance affect his work. He lets his mechanical sculptures run for an indeterminable amount of time, allowing the space to become a self-governing, organic space. Zimoun’s art very easily blurs the lines between nature and man/machine.
Artist Maude White combines her gorgeous illustrative skills with intricate paper cutting expertise to create incredible paper work creations. A self-taught artist, she credits her Waldorf education and artistic family for encouraging her to create.
“I am influenced by my mother’s art a great deal. When I was little she would make wool felt playscapes — little scenes of a tree stump in a forest-covered in plants and animals, a small garden scene with vegetables and apple trees, a playscape for the story The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was these types of small, precious, complete worlds that drew me to working with paper.” (Source)
Using an X-Acto knife she cuts each piece by hand slicing away the negative space to make elegant figures with fantastic hidden scenes and stories laced into the designs. “It may sound weird, but I love to cut. I just enjoy the process,” she said in an interview.
White’s paper cutting technique is almost unbelievable—the fine lines and elaborate detail are incredibly impressive. What gives these pieces their charm, though, are the whimsical drawings and ornamental designs. They would be lovely drawn on paper, but the delicacy of the paper, the cast shadows, and the ability to look through the empty spaces make these pieces captivating.
“When I cut paper, I feel as if I am peeling back the outer, superficial layer of our vision to reveal the secret space beneath. With paper cutting there are so many opportunities to create negative space that tells its own story. Letting the observer become present in the piece allows him or her to look through it. … I am not creating for Art’s sake. I am creating for Paper’s sake, to make visible the stories that every piece of paper attempts to communicate to us.” (via booooooom)
Scottish-born, London-based visual artist Robert Montgomery loves to write in fire. Montgomery’s epic statement pieces are constructed from gigantic letters attached to a wooden platform, ready to be torched. The words aflame, his ideas come alive, sparked by their prophetic tone. The poems appear like floating fortunes, hovering in bold typeface, spelling out tales of ghosts and temporality, horses and palaces, situations seeped in apprehensive futures. The destructions of comfort, foreshadowing the obliteration of power structures and the rise of beauty. The act of setting them on fire is also, whether intentional or not, a nod to the finite nature of art and installation work. It echoes the premise of destruction as the highest form of creation.
Montgomery has also shown many of the same pieces in “recycled sunlight,” or through batteries charged via solar panels, illuminating at night. This electric voice speaking softly within the crowded streets adds a beautiful dimension to the art. Some of his pieces, put up as billboards around London’s east end, look like advertising at first glance. It is this interplay that is exactly what draws Montgomery to anonymous installation as his primary method of display:
“I’m definitely interested in hijacking advertising space for a different kind of conversation. I think it’s really interesting to use that space for a sort of interior voice. A voice in the private sphere. When I started putting my art on billboards, people told me, “You can’t put a hundred words on a billboard. No one will read that.” (Source)
For centuries, artists have funneled suffering and anger into their art. Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz is doing the same, using her work “Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight” as an endurance performance art piece protesting the lack of school imposed consequences on the man she says raped her in her dorm room.
American colleges are notorious for their treatment of sexual assault cases brought to them by students, often pressuring victims not to report attacks to the police and conducting disciplinary hearings related to sexual assault led by improperly trained personnel.
Sulkowicz’s story is similar to many — in fact she says that her rapist committed the same crime on a number of other women on their campus. The difference is the way that she’s chosen to use her art piece as a call to action. Sulkowicz will carry a dorm room mattress with her until her alleged attacker either moves off campus or the school expels him. She says:
I’ve written up 5 pages for the rules of engagement for the piece. I’ve tried to make it as thorough and well-researched as I can – as long as I’m on Columbia campus or any Columbia-owned property, I have to have this mattress with me. It’s an extra-long twin and made of foam so it’s not heavy and impossible, but it’s floppy and unruly. … I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.
One of the rules of engagement she’s created is that she’s not allowed to ask for help in carrying the mattress, but others are allowed to offer help, which she can accept. This is an interesting choice, implying that perhaps she’s still dealing with the self-blame survivors of rape frequently experience.
The entire project serves as a self-imposed scarlet letter in many ways. Sulkowicz has bravely allowed herself to become the visible face of a horrifying violation, one that still carries significant victim shaming. Just read the You Tube comments to see what she’s enduring by going public. She says, “I feel like it’s taken over my entire college experience. It’s like a cloud that will always hang over me.” Yet by committing to this public performance, she is continuing to burden herself every day, literally and figuratively, with memories of the experience. In her creation of art in the face of terrible pain, one can only hope that Emma Sulkowicz finds peace. (via New York)
Although he was educated as an economist, Sebastiao Selgado understands the world most clearly in images, as demonstrated in his incredibly moving photography. His most recent series, Genesis, is his most ambitious and long-term project, spanning eight years as he visited 30 of the earth’s most pure and untouched sites. He was inspired to do the project because up until that point people had been the central subject of his work. He says that he “… wished to photograph the other animals, to photograph the landscapes, to photograph us, but us from the beginning, the time we lived in equilibrium with nature.”
His imagery is completely enthralling. It is obvious the time he spent for each one to capture just the right moment. The fact that his photographs are in black and white emphasizes their impact further, and creates a greater romanticism. What is truly incredible about Selgado is his investment that gives him such a great return in his artwork. For a while he was disillusioned by the world and his photography, having seen so much devastation as a photojournalist based mostly in Rwanda at the time.
Selgado returned home for his own health and sanity, to Brazil, where his parents had left him their land. It was almost completely cleared of the forest “paradise” it once was to him, and so he and a friend worked to replant the eco-system. This experience seems to have shaped Selgado’s view of the state of our planet as a whole. He has seen the atrocities we have inflicted upon it and ourselves, but he has also successfully restored a piece of it to its original strength and beauty. His images, therefore, are not caught in time as a momento of the world we were once a part of, but a reminder of what we might still participate in for the foreseeable future if we can recognize it as something worth reviving.
Selgado speaks about his practice and the Genesis photo-series in a TED talk that you can see here. (Quotations in this article from TED talk) (Via Dazed Digital)
Melbourne-based artist Catherine Tipping uses an analog way of working to depict digitally-minded portraits. Blurring the line between what’s on the screen and off, she uses wool to stitch human faces that are partially pixelated, glitchy, or generally just obscured through Photoshop. They are sewn onto a gridded canvas, which is not unlike the the pixels that we see on screen. These similarities make for a compelling series titled Filter that meditates on identity and the way technology has totally changed our culture.
Tipping explains the concept behind her work in an email to The Huffington Post, writing:
I was learning about Modernism and how technology changed society culturally back then. I saw how the Digital era has had a similar affect on our culture. Now that we are in the second decade of the new millennium, we rely on the efficiency of digital technology. Recently, in some aspects of society, it appears there is a yearning for the handmade. Maybe now is the time when digital and handmade mediums can be combined and embraced by society. I see this bridge in my processes by using a digital image with all its pixels and hand stitching it.
Depending on how you’re looking at them, they can resemble digital renderings or traditional fiber work. Tipping intersperses bits of both worlds within a single composition, creating one whole work that’s a combination of influences. “I am interested in cultural identity on many levels; societal, sub-cultural and personal,” she writes to The Huffington Post. “I like considering the distinctive visual traditions of different eras and outside factors that shape them. These portraits may appear distinctive of our current era or not, I sometimes wonder if we are becoming so anachronistic that we are indistinctive of a time.” (Via The Huffington Post)
There is always something wrong about Yvonne Todd‘s photographs. By utilizing the effects and techniques of commercial photography studios, Todd creates quietly strange images reminiscent of 90s glamour shots, or of head shots that always turn out looking amateur. Full of ill-fitting clothes, cringe-worthy props and awkward poses, Todd pushes the ideas of what is conventional beauty, and how quickly these norms change.
Her palette in itself is very rarely considered beautiful – saturated with sickly pinks, boring beige, flat creams, dull greys and flooded with unflattering light it is hard to find these images attractive.
The subjects appear confident at first glance, but there is an underlying sense of sadness, longing and an unease about themselves.
These people are reminiscent of trophy wives; of people obsessed with vanity and image; of compulsive individuals determined to be the best version of themselves. Men sitting uncomfortably, surrounded by objects they are unsure of; women staring into the mirror, practicing how to be seductive; girls striving to act above their age; amateur dancers trying to appear more skilled than they are. These poses are so often seen in modern advertising, and popular media. Todd says:
“My interest is a bit broader than beauty and artifice; I’m really interested in manipulating the conventional and familiar. I feel compelled to create “revised” photographic conventions drawn from advertising imagery, stock photography, catalogs, brochures, corporate portraits, mass-market fiction, religious cults, soap operas, show business, and the glimpses and fragments that resonate in my memory and imagination.”
These photographs may seem outdated and surreal, but could as easily be a reflection of all that is toxic in our modern day western capitalist society and our focus on image and representation of oneself.
Stefanie Klavens has a love for 20th century pop culture and Americana. In her articulate photographic series, titled “Vanishing Drive-Ins,” Klavens documents the disintegration of the American drive-in. Once a popular social and entertainment aspect, it has been slowly disappearing from the United States. As Klavens explains, “The drive-in has suffered the same fate as the single screen theater. Before World War II the drive-in was a modest trend, but after the war the craze began in earnest, peaking in popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960’s. Drive-ins were ideal for the modern family, everyone jumped into the car, no babysitter needed. ‘Car culture’ had officially arrived as a dominant force on the American scene.”
Despite the rapid popularity of the drive-in, they simply could not stand the test of time. Klavens attributes their decline to the evolution of technology and altered views of land: “Over time, changing real estate values began to have an effect on the drive-in. Land became too valuable for a summer-only business. Widespread adoption of daylight saving time in the mid 1960’s subtracted an hour from outdoor evening screening time. The decline was further hastened by the advent of VCRs and home video rentals. In the 1950s there were over 4,000 drive-ins nationwide. Today there are fewer than 400.”
These photographs, with their heavily saturated colors and blurry prolonged exposures, showcase some of the few drive-ins that are still functioning with a romantic nostalgia. The structures and signage may be antiquated, but the car types and models are a dead ringer for our era.