“I knew from a fairly early age, about 15 or so, that I wanted to be an artist. The problem was, my father was a detective in the police. In his view, artists were almost as suspect as criminals”, explains Austrian artist Edwin Wurm. He obviously withstood his father’s objections to his artistic ambitions and followed his vocation. Good for him and for us, because Edwin Wurm is now one of the most successful contemporary artists in the Northern hemisphere.
Artist Alan Bur Johnson natural motifs often. However, this may be his work at its most creepy. Johnson’s Progeny series begins with photographs of winged insects. The photographs are transferred to transparencies and affixed to the wall using insect pins. Progeny allows viewers to inspect the insects up close, afford creatures we’d otherwise dispose of more time, and give some thought to taxonomy, the exercise of classification. Interestingly his statement says in part:
“Whether an image, memory or specimen, each is meticulously dissected, altered and restructured. Referencing physical structures and the pulse of living cycles, his work documents fleeting occurrences, which typically transpire unnoticed.”
Designer Luis Hernan‘s project, “Digital Ethereal,” captures colorful “spirit photographs” of Wi-Fi signals. Using long exposure photography alongside the Kirilian Device mobile app, an app created specifically for this project that translates WiFi signals into color gradations, Hernan creates stunning photographs that feature ghostly swirls of color and activity. Hernan’s project represents the ways we can thread different kinds of technology together to create something new – something that visualizes a field of energy that is omnipresent, yet eludes our physical sensibilities. Of his WiFi light paintings, Hernan writes, “I believe our interaction with this landscape of electromagnetic signals, described by Antony Dunne as Hertzian Space, can be characterised in the same terms as that with ghosts and spectra. They both are paradoxical entities, whose untypical substance allows them to be an invisible presence. In the same way, they undergo a process of gradual substantiation to become temporarily available to perception. Finally, they both haunt us. Ghosts, as Derrida would have it, with the secrets of past generations. Hertzian space, with the frustration of interference and slowness.” (via laughing squid)
The installations of London-based artist Zadok Ben-David‘s miniscule metal flowers are detailed, dense and mesmerizing. His travelling series of the work (called Blackfield) appeared in London, Portugal, Sydney, Singapore, Berlin, Linz, Untergroningen, Seoul, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Derived from illustrations appearing in 19th century Victorian encyclopedias, each iteration contains nearly 20,000 delicate 3-D floral etchings.
Each individual flower is crafted from metal and each side is hand-painted with either a stunning meltdown of color—or a heavy coat of black. Hovering between breathtaking and completely disturbing, the flat, sketch-like sculptures seem ominous as they stand in perfect rows, tucked into a massive bed of white sand.
A smart new campaign launched on Earth Day (April 22) in Hong Kong has ambitious plans aimed at changing the littering epidemic the city is facing. Called ‘The Face of Litter’ and developed by The Hong Kong Cleanup, in partnership with Ecozine and The Nature Conservancy, it is a multi-media attempt to curve people’s messy habits. Groups of scientists have targeted certain areas around the city, and with the help of DNA phenotyping and specialized software, an image of the litter culprit is developed. Then by considering the type of litter found, and where in the city, an even more accurate description of the person and their demographic can be developed. The faces of the guilty litterbugs are then displayed around the city, in different bus stops, on billboards and on social media.
By publicly shaming people who drop their rubbish, The Hong Kong Cleanup hopes to drastically change their citizen’s habits. China and Indonesia are among the top polluters around the world, and now many people are acting to change this sooner rather than later.
95 per cent of marine refuse in Hong Kong comes from local sources, with over 80 per cent originating from land-based activities. Additionally, more than 70 per cent comprises plastic and foam plastic items. (Source)
Lisa Christensen, Founder and CEO of The Hong Kong Cleanup, says:
We are thrilled to be part of this innovative campaign, which is sure to have a positive impact on people and the community. Last year, during the six-week Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge, 418 teams comprising 51,064 participants, collected a total of 3,894,000 kilograms of litter from city streets, coastal area’s and country trails. Sadly, we suffer from a serious ‘pick up after me’ mentality, and this simply must change. (Source)
Eyes, we all have them. And they’re attached to the body that we have to take to the gym, so why not go to a gym that’s good looking? Take EQUINOX fitness clubs for example. The décor is zen-spa inspired. The yoga room has relaxing lighting, it’s oval shaped with bamboo floors and every mat is neatly tucked away in its place.
Everywhere you turn it’s another tasteful sign, piece of furniture or gleaming surface- a far cry from the usual garish colors and cluttered ambiance of other gyms. The treadmills even have a place to plug in your iPod and charge it, if that isn’t attention to detail, I don’t know what is.
Beautiful/Decay readers, we know you’re a discerning bunch, and you appreciate thoughtful design and great aesthetics, so get yourself over to Equinox for a 3 day trial and soak up the good-looking atmosphere for yourself.
In this stunning project titled I Am Dust, photographer Olivier Valsecchi has created powerful images that embody the essence of creation and the will to survive. Currently, the project is divided between two series: “Dust” and “Time of War.” While both series depict models frozen in dynamic poses as ashes erupt off and around their bodies, there are slight thematic differences. “Dust” explores creation using Ovid’s definition of Chaos as “a crude and indigested mass, a lifeless lump, unfashioned and unframed” (Source) — essentially, an embryonic ball of matter that explodes into being. Valsecchi likens this concept to the Big Bang theory. What fascinates him is how these preexisting, scattered elements eventually fuse together, despite having once existed elsewhere in another form. Thus, in his work, he seeks to explore the reincarnation and infinitude of matter:
“What I looked for in the ‘Dust’ series was to curve around the timeline like a circle and capture, in the same image, something and its opposite, like endings and beginnings, dead and alive, floating in water and flying in dust, so in the end the viewer can never know when it starts and when it ends.”
The models in “Dust” capture this atemporal moment of creation perfectly. Their bodies are frozen in time and space, but with their eyes closed, they become expressions of pure energy. The ashes erupting off their skin resemble particles of their physical bodies being sent back into Chaos as matter lost in the violence of creation.
Ashes, of course, often occupy our imagination as symbols of death and a return to the earth. These associations make their explosive presence doubly significant in Valsecchi’s second series, “Time of War.” Inspired by the photographer’s fascination with Time, these particular images explore how Time is a circular phenomenon, and that we, as living beings, always seem to be fighting against it. As Valsecchi writes:
“I wanted pictures that would blur the viewer’s perception of before and after, and maybe, think about [the present moment]. Thinking about now, about our impermanence and our urge to live, in regards to our environment. Wars, conflicts, power, money: it is a struggle. That’s why ‘Time of War’ […] was more about surviving, standing up to the tests, [and] going forward.”
Demonstrating survival, the models twist and turn against an unseen threat, pushing against the darkness that surrounds them, while ash signifying their own material death sheds from their skin. Valsecchi has made powerfully visible our eternal struggle against mortality.
Curious about how Valsecchi created these dynamic shots, I asked him about his creative process. Not surprisingly, his method was just as interesting as the philosophies and perspectives driving his work. Each photo session was a ritual achieved in stages of inspired motion, mimicking the slow-but-accelerating process of creation itself. He describes the method as such:
“Before anything, I would explain the intention and say: ‘The ashes symbolize Death and it wants to [cover] you but you have to get rid of it.’ Or: ‘Close your eyes, you don’t want the ashes to blind you, plus you will focus on your energy and forget you’re naked.’ […] Then the model would undress and kneel down. I would shower him or her with ashes. […] Then I would stand in front of the model and show what kind of movement I’m expecting to shoot. […] The model and I are gradually sharing a trance, because the process is three or four hours long, and in the end, due to the jumping, swirling, and the closed eyes, you kind of lose your marks and only [feel] the energy.”
At this point, the challenge would be to capture the ashes before they diffuse into the air. But it goes without saying that the results are remarkable, and each dynamic photo captures the body’s struggle amidst and against Chaos.
Valsecchi hinted that there will be a third chapter in the I Am Dust series, which he will be working on this summer. Check out his website and follow his Facebook page to keep up with his compelling and thought-provoking work.
Maxime Ballesteros is Berlin-based photographer who captures the strange, incidental, and oft-intense encounters that punctuate our late-night sojourns into debauchery, pleasure, and excess. The openness and playfulness of his subjects (many of whom are his friends) denotes a party that has reached a fevered, dissociative pitch. Not unlike the fragmentary memories flickering through the brain after a night of indulgence, his photos always suggest there is a much greater narrative going on: from cars abandoned along a dark roadside, to entangled legs, to people kissing and groping in the company of others, we are privy to only one piece from such nighttime revelry, making us curious voyeurs into a fleeting moment from a stranger’s erotic and/or emotional life.
Something happens to us human creatures after nightfall – our energy changes, an “edge” develops that wasn’t there while the sun was still shining. We become desiring, sensate, and slightly odd night-dwellers. Given the recurring images of heels and garter belts and glimpses into the world of BDSM, it is not surprising that Ballesteros’ repertoire is commonly identified as “provocative” and “sexual.” However, it is important not to reduce his photography to such; Ballesteros expresses that his “work is [only] as provocative and sexual as the world is,” and that we interpret sex in everything because — of course — it’s what “driv[es] us most” (Source). What he also explores is the humor, beauty, pain, and gracelessness that motivate and underwrite these late-night experiences.
The way Ballesteros manages to capture the honesty and frankness of these experiences lies in his photographic techniques. His core tactic, in his own words? To “get lost” (Source), to become invisible in his surroundings while remaining receptive to the energy of the people around him, so that he can decipher people’s facades and understand the true dynamics of an encounter. With his camera, he tries to get in close; he avoids re-cropping so that the image is a true representation of that moment; and he uses a high flash, centering the object or body of interest. The result is raw, stark images that confront you with their candor and intensity. And even when his work dips into the surreal — the latex-clad woman screaming while being pushed down a hallway in a wheelchair, for example — the photos still bear a realist, honest aesthetic, as if they truly could be moments from a strange, semi-lucid night.
Following Ballesteros’ wisdom, I encourage all readers to “get lost” in his website, where he has organized his collections under such intriguing titles as “entre chien et loup” and “love me – i’m trying.” You can read an interview with Sang Blue here. The Corner Berlin also features a fascinating video of Ballesteros comparing the nightlife in Paris to that in Berlin. More of Ballesteros’ work after the jump.