Last Tuesday, the militant extremist group ISIS released a video threatening to kill two Japanese hostages, journalists Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. They requested a $200 million ransom of which Japan refused to pay (Yukawa has said to have been killed). The Japanese public has responded to these threats by using Twitter to mock ISIS with Photoshopped memes. While this isn’t exactly art, elements of design, digital collage, and illustration are being used for political and social reasons. The images, viewable with the hashtag #ISISクソコラグランプリ, translates to ISIS crappy collage grand prix. This popular tag presents exactly what it says – the terrorists, rudimentarily cut/pasted/drawn on, are seen in spaceships or cartoon characters. One image even features Mickey Mouse.
While the hashtag has received criticism from some, many see this parody as a way to react to the threat without bowing to terrorism. Peter Payne, owner of the online shop J-List, sums the hashtag up up by tweeting, “You can kill some of us, but Japan is a peaceful and happy land, with fast Internet. So go to hell.” (Via Dazed and Buzzfeed)
Jason Hopkins creates digital sculptures that ooze with body horror. The collection, called “Abhominal,” is replete with organic blobs, sharp angles suggesting knees and elbows, and pink skin stretched over geometric frames, looking for all the world like fleshy jungle gyms. The similarity to the word “abominable” is surely not a coincidence. The sculptures look like science experiments gone horribly wrong.
As grotesque as they may already appear, the backstory ratchets up the queasiness: “Abhominal, an archaic word meaning inhuman, is an exploratory weblog of the human form,” Hopkins’ website says. “The digital sculptures are a fusion of geometric, architectural and biological abstract forms – a bleak evolutionary future where biotechnology has been used to make perfect posthuman beings.”
That’s right. The sculptures aren’t as innocuous as skin grafts or tumorous cell growths; they’re the imagined next step in human evolution. Hopkins takes the idea of genetic engineering and plays with the concept, mulling over and pulling out the dystopian possibilities like long strands of taffy. His artist’s statement continues:
“Humans have altered the genomes of species for thousands of years through artificial selection. Over the past 40 years scientists have made amazing technological progress to improve natures crops and mammals through genetic modifications; recently science has mapped the entire human genome and begun to realise the potential for modifying us.”
To complete the eerie effect of his digital renderings, Hopkins describes each piece with a kind of sinister optimism. One piece called, “Supermodel, Size Zero,” is a thin stretch of skin with barely human features: two sagging breasts, small clawed feet, and the occasional tiny nub. The description enthuses, “With genetic tinkering we will no longer need to fuss over what we eat.” (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)
We all know that advertising is an illusion, and built around pandering to our desires. But, it would be safe to say that a majority of us aren’t fully aware of just how far that mirage extends. Russian compositor Ashot Gevorkyan is helping remove the wool from our eyes by exposing the secrets of the industry that he himself works in. In his series of composited GIFS, he demonstrates just how the final image is built up. He shows us the initial shot, and also the steps completed in post production to achieve the end result.
We are able to see how 3 actors in front of a green screen in a studio are eventually placed in a post apocalyptic city, hectically shooting at a crowd of zombies surrounding them. Bodies are unnaturally lengthened; artificial skies added behind groups of people; lighting effects are fabricated; even the color of clothing is transformed.
It is an interesting experiment in raising awareness of just how critical we need to stay of the media around us. Just because we are consuming more media, doesn’t mean we should try what we see and hear any more than in the past. Mocking up these images, Gevorkyan demonstrates just how easily and efficiently it is for professions to advertise a completely make believe world. For more eye opening images, see after the jump.
Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew‘s paints both metaphorical and literal depth. As a student at Silapakorn University in Bangkok, Nimmalaikaew began experimenting with painting on mosquito net and tulle, this giving birth to his unusual and striking style. His paintings seem to shimmer in mid-air, changing depending on where the viewer stands, appearing like specters from another dimension. Though the figures in his paintings are caught in a single moment of time, they are still somehow dynamic, conveying a spectrum of emotions and vibrating with life.
Nimmalaikaew’s work has garnered quite a bit of acclaim, from the Sovereign Asian Art Prize to various medals and the title of Artist of Distinction by the National Exhibition of Art in Bangkok. He spoke briefly with BLOUIN Artinfo on the way he creates his ethereal paintings:
“Well, each process might be a little different depending on the work, but mainly it starts from a digital drawing of twisted lines in human form. The digital drawing is then printed life-size to set the base form and texture. The following layers are painted in oil color in the ‘tulle-painting style.’ Over time, I have learnt that the tulle demands a different way of creating realistic light and shadow for the material. The top layer gives details for the optical illusion. Then I connect each layer with clear copolymer line to make it all fit together and create depth in the image.” (via I Need a Guide)
The work of Miller Rodriguez, a.k.a Pretty Puke, is photographic foray into the raunchy underbelly of LA’s nightlife. An encounter with his work is often an experience of knee-jerk repulsion, followed by a driving curiosity; it is not uncommon to see people urinating in dark alleyways, devouring fast food, vomiting, or expressing themselves in shamelessly hypersexual ways, but you can’t stop looking. And even though his technique may initially seem lo-fi, this is part of his distinct style and brand: to present raw, unedited, unglamorous life by hyperbolically representing the experiences and vices relevant to today’s urban youth — those of Generations Y and Z.
When I spoke with Miller about his work, he was a bit vague. As a voyeur to insanity and subversion, so much of his creative identity is founded on a need to remain aloof; even his photo captions are encrypted with what has been accurately described as “an other-worldly hip-hop vernacular” (Source). He did, however, provide me with some glimmering shards of insight into his political and artistic goals, which add new dimensions and interpretive possibilities to his dark repertoire. His perspective on Generation Y (and Z) is particularly illuminating, in that he views their forms of (mis)behavior as symptomatic of their uniquely digitized upbringings, in addition to the reproachful influence of older generations:
“Gen Y lives on the internet, in an entirely different universe. We communicate and express ourselves online in a completely different sphere that older people aren’t aware of. […] Older generations may look down on Generation Y for being too obsessed with technology/internet, too sexually deviant, too entitled, but they are the ones who made us who we are. […] They raised us, and created the shitty economic situation in which we have come of age, and this is the result.”
In many ways, Pretty Puke can be seen as the “found footage” for Generations Y and Z. And even though it seems to only represent a small section of LA-based youth, his work appeals to people across various subcultures as a greater visualization of dissidence.
What makes Miller’s work even more engaging is his approach towards body image, or what he identifies as the “ugly aesthetic”:
“I want to create a world with people who aren’t flawless. […] I don’t have a reaction to perfection. I’m an advocate for the ‘ugly.’ I’m exaggerating and holding up a mirror to showcase how silly we are for making everything look perfect. We all have flaws, and that’s what interests me.”
Photography is often a medium wherein the subject is groomed, propped, and airbrushed to a level of unattainable, hyper-real perfection; for Miller, this artificial manipulation of the body is “more degrading than what [he’s] doing.” He continues: “The fact that you’re carving into a person via Photoshop is mind-blowing to me. I use shitty equipment so I don’t veil the flaws in my subjects. I want to see them how they are.” The moments of cultural rebellion he presents, then, are not only signified by unintelligible and obscene behaviors, but also by the bodies themselves, written on the skin as deviations of “perfection” and conformity.
Check out Pretty Puke on his Tumblr-based website and Instagram, and follow his burgeoning, self-titled genre of stimulating and ephemeral photography. As his sociological insights reveal, his work is open to interpretation and analysis. And if you have contentions with his forms of representation and/or the politics behind them, you are encouraged to express them; the purpose and power of Pretty Puke is to provoke and engage — and not to simply placate.
Like a seductive cloud of silky smoke, Kazuki Takamatsu’s lolitas dance on the brink of adolescence and adulthood. Using a technique called depth mapping which is similar to the 3D effect seen in video games such as Zelda, Takamatsu hand paints pixels in a monotone palette of black and white. The effect plays tricks on the eye allowing it to see multiple shadows, similar to holograms in the figures of dainty nubiles. His vision transforms them into living spirits.
Takamatsu says his Lolita subjects are all based on the average Japanese girl. In their likeness, he comments on good and evil, society and history. In barely there clothing, these pretty young things clutch guns, cities and swords. It’s a strange dynamic to use such a beautiful aesthetic to comment on war and violence. In places, it comes off a bit disturbing because it tends to take on a very objectified view of young women. But this is the tradition of manga, considered a high art form in Japan.
Manga is a series of comic books originating in Japan. They are read by all ages but seem to be especially popular among teenage boys and girls. The stories deal with typical subject matter; romance, action, adventure, horror, sports etc. There are however, more underground forms of manga where homosexuality, incest, transgender and pedophilia are discussed freely. Besides Japan, Europe is the second largest consumer of manga and the U.S. is a close third. (via hifructose)
For fans of pop-culture mash-ups, Rocky Davies has an amusing throwback for you. The artist takes iconic villains of the 1980’s and fuses them with the music of the same era. Its outcome is a bizarre series of fictional album covers. Using fonts and colors that are reminiscent of the time, Davies creates slick designs that channel a darker version of Lisa Frank art.
The stark black backgrounds give way to fluorescent accents, and nearly all of his designs feature his subjects wearing Wayfarer sunglasses. Looking impossibly cool, these characters intermingle with bold, geometric patterns and a lot of lens flare. Lyrics from songs like the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)are designed around the floating head portraits and take on a new meaning.
Davies’ series comes at the right time. It’s no doubt nostalgic, and it speaks to those who were coming of age in the 80’s. There’s enough time between their popularity and present day for people to realize how borderline cheesy these things were. These fake album covers are both an homage and poke fun at an era of visual excess. (Via Brother Tedd)
Acclaimed photographer Gregory Crewdson is a master of creating creepy scenes that have an air of mystery, violence and drama about them. He sets his images in small town America, but not as we know it. He presents scenes laden with loneliness; scenarios that are surreal; moments that are unnerving. Taking stylistic cues from Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and Diane Arbus, there is a strong narrative to Crewdson’s work. He repeatedly visits certain locations and waits until a particular moment presents itself in his mind’s eye, and then he tries to represent that as accurately as possible.
His photos are moments of people in a strange sort of limbo, or some state of reflection, all bathed in a dramatic, cinematic light. A woman lies submerged in a flooded living room, it isn’t clear whether she is dead or contemplating what went wrong to cause the disaster in her house; a young girl sits up in bed at night time, either going over some sinister, violent plan, or deciding whether her nightmare was real or not; a woman stands in the middle of an empty street, taxi behind her, door still open and driver waiting. All of Crewdson’s images are filled with heavy subtext, something that is left unsaid. He talks about the mysterious worlds he creates in an interview with The American Reader:
I think that’s really kind of a beautiful point, that at the core there is something very childhood-like about the whole activity of building and constructing a world. My mom just recently reminded me that I used to build these little miniature worlds outside at our country house and populate it with little figures. That whole thing about trying to create a world – there’s something very connected to childhood and reverie and daydreaming and fantasy. (Source)
See more snapshots of his dreamlike worlds after the jump. (Via We The Urban)