29 July 2013 . Written by João Bento
“The animal body, the animal voice, the animal gaze and the animal trace are, in contemporary art, all new questioning entities. But what questions do they pose? Upon witnessing this animal invasion, one may ask: why now?”
- Giovanni Aloi, ‘Art & Animals’, 2012
‘Pets’ is the most recent book by Portuguese photographer Valter Vinagre. Inside the book you will find thirteen, square format, black and white photographs showing taxidermied wild animals, all animals commonly found in the Portuguese fauna. These stuffed animals were photographed in a variety of domestic interiors – therefore their ‘new natural environments’ – surrounded by pieces of furniture and personal belongings.
Valter Vinagre has used flash to illuminate these scenes. This use of light, often associated with the use of black and white film, creates a dramatic effect in the images. The play between intense bright light and deep shadows makes the stuffed animals look scary – they seem to have come back to life to claim something from us. Some of these creature are endangered species – maybe we should pay more attention to that..?
One of photographs shows a pheasant placed next to several objects with the emblem of Benfica (the famous Portuguese football club) that uses the American golden eagle as its symbol. The pheasant sits on top of a shelf while the Benfica paraphernalia stays underneath. One can imagine that the owner of these objects is a fanatic supporter of Benfica – but he is even more proud of his hunting skills. In this case, the pheasant rules over the golden eagle.
The relationship between the Portuguese and their wildlife is not an easy one – maybe like in all the other countries of the world. The people that live in the rural areas seem to be more aware of, and understand, the animals that surround them. By opposition, the majority of the population living in the urban areas is suffocating due to economic pressures and is too overwhelmed to think about the sustainability of nature. It might be that, one day, the animals that Valter Vinagre photographed will only exist in taxidermied form, which is a shame.
24 July 2013 . Written by João Bento
Sarah Laure Engelhard is a Dutch photographer and marine biologist. As a photographer she works on self initiated projects. Most of her work is drawn from nature, such as the projects ‘Still Wild’ (2008 – 2009) which shows “wild animals that died in the city of Amsterdam by human intervention” and ‘Rest’ (2009), depicting a series of manmade objects that were left behind in nature. In most of her work she applies a fixed photographic strategy that makes it possible to observe the development of, and small differences between, objects or situations. Currently Sarah lives at the Gold Coast, Australia and is a PhD student at the Griffith University.
We were impressed with Sarah’s project ‘Plastic Drift’ (2009 – 2010). ‘Plastic Drift’, she tells us, shows “objects that had been drifting in the ocean but were collected from the beach. The objects were taken into the sea again and photographed at a depth of 6 to 9 meters.” One of the objects from ‘Plastic Drift’ made us think of a spaceship flying through space! We asked her if she knew what the object was: “the object is a broken plastic ‘mandibak’, the name for some sort of a plastic ‘pan’ that is used in Indonesia in the bathroom to throw water over your body instead of a shower.” In the same photograph we can see two species of fish and the organisms in the background are corals and a type of sponge. The little shiny dots are particles in the water (sand, organic material, plankton) that reflect the sunlight.
We wondered if the image could be judged in the context of scientific work. Sarah explained that her photographs “do not supply data that can be used to measure anything or compare something scientifically and are, therefore, useless for any research purposes. In that sense they are solely visual.” In the course of describing her work, Sarah added, “I don’t think my images have a clear message. I am mainly fascinated by the impact human beings have on their surroundings and the way they always mark their presence with litter, but I think my images do not activate or explain enough to make people change their behaviour.”
Asked about her influences, Sarah explained, “a photographic project related to aquatic life that I really like is the seascapes taken of cities from the water level by the Japanese photographer Asako Narahashi. Another of my favourite works of art is the book and series ‘Another Water’ by Roni Horn.”
Please visit Sarah Laure Engelhard’s website to see more photographs from ‘Plastic Drift’: sarahengelhard.com
02 July 2013 . Posted by João Bento
“The boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea
From the other end of the hallway a rhythm was generating
Another boy was sliding up the hallway
He merged perfectly with the hallway,
He merged perfectly, the mirror in the hallway
The boy looked at Johnny, Johnny wanted to run,
but the movie kept moving as planned
The boy took Johnny, he pushed him against the locker,
He drove it in, he drove it home, he drove it deep in Johnny
The boy disappeared, Johnny fell on his knees,
started crashing his head against the locker,
started crashing his head against the locker,
started laughing hysterically
When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he’s being surrounded by
horses, horses, horses, horses
coming in in all directions
white shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.
Do you know how to pony like bony maroney
Do you know how to twist, well it goes like this, it goes like this
Baby mash potato, do the alligator, do the alligator
And you twist the twister like your baby sister
I want your baby sister, give me your baby sister, dig your baby sister
Rise up on her knees, do the sweet pea, do the sweet pee pee,
Roll down on her back, got to lose control, got to lose control,
Got to lose control and then you take control,
Then you’re rolled down on your back and you like it like that,
Like it like that, like it like that, like it like that,
Then you do the watusi, yeah do the watusi
Life is filled with holes, Johnny’s laying there, his sperm coffin
Angel looks down at him and says, “Oh, pretty boy,
Can’t you show me nothing but surrender ?”
Johnny gets up, takes off his leather jacket,
Taped to his chest there’s the answer,
You got pen knives and jack knives and
Switchblades preferred, switchblades preferred
Then he cries, then he screams, saying
Life is full of pain, I’m cruisin’ through my brain
And I fill my nose with snow and go Rimbaud,
Go Rimbaud, go Rimbaud,
And go Johnny go, and do the watusi, oh do the watusi
There’s a little place, a place called space
It’s a pretty little place, it’s across the tracks,
Across the tracks and the name of the place is you like it like that,
You like it like that, you like it like that, you like it like that,
And the name of the band is the
Twistelettes, Twistelettes, Twistelettes, Twistelettes,
Twistelettes, Twistelettes, Twistelettes, Twistelettes
Baby calm down, better calm down,
In the night, in the eye of the forest
There’s a mare black and shining with yellow hair,
I put my fingers through her silken hair and found a stair,
I didn’t waste time, I just walked right up and saw that
up there — there is a sea
up there — there is a sea
up there — there is a sea
the sea’s the possibility
There is no land but the land
(up there is just a sea of possibilities)
There is no sea but the sea
(up there is a wall of possibilities)
There is no keeper but the key
(up there there are several walls of possibilities)
Except for one who seizes possibilities, one who seizes possibilities.
I seize the first possibility, is the sea around me
I was standing there with my legs spread like a sailor
(in a sea of possibilities) I felt his hand on my knee
(on the screen)
And I looked at Johnny and handed him a branch of cold flame
(in the heart of man)
The waves were coming in like Arabian stallions
Gradually lapping into sea horses
He picked up the blade and he pressed it against his smooth throat
And let it deep in
Dip in to the sea, to the sea of possibilities
It started hardening
Dip in to the sea, to the sea of possibilities
It started hardening in my hand
And I felt the arrows of desire
I put my hand inside his cranium, oh we had such a brainiac-amour
But no more, no more, I gotta move from my mind to the area
(go Rimbaud go Rimbaud go Rimbaud)
And go Johnny go and do the watusi,
Yeah do the watusi, do the watusi …
Shined open coiled snakes white and shiny twirling and encircling
Our lives are now entwined, we will fall yes we’re together twining
Your nerves, your mane of the black shining horse
And my fingers all entwined through the air,
I could feel it, it was the hair going through my fingers,
(I feel it I feel it I feel it I feel it)
The hairs were like wires going through my body
I I that’s how I
that’s how I
(at that Tower of Babel they knew what they were after)
(they knew what they were after)
[Everything on the current] moved up
I tried to stop it, but it was too warm, too unbelievably smooth,
Like playing in the sea, in the sea of possibility, the possibility
Was a blade, a shiny blade, I hold the key to the sea of possibilities
There’s no land but the land
looked at my hands, and there’s a red stream
that went streaming through the sands like fingers,
like arteries, like fingers
(how much fits between the eyes of a horse?)
He lay, pressing it against his throat (your eyes)
He opened his throat (your eyes)
His vocal chords started shooting like (of a horse) mad pituitary glands
The scream he made (and my heart) was so high (my heart) pitched that nobody heard,
No one heard that cry,
No one heard (Johnny) the butterfly flapping in his throat,
Nobody heard, he was on that bed, it was like a sea of jelly,
And so he seized the first
(his vocal chords shot up)
(like mad pituitary glands)
It was a black tube, he felt himself disintegrate
(there is nothing happening at all)
and go inside the black tube, so when he looked out into the steep
saw this sweet young thing (Fender one)
Humping on the parking meter, leaning on the parking meter
In the sheets
there was a man
to the simple
Rock & roll
Lyrics from the song ‘Horses’ written by Patty Smith, from the album ‘Horses’ (1975).
To see more photographs by German artist Alexandra Vogt please visit her website: www.alexandravogt.de
24 June 2013 . Posted by João Bento
I photographed ‘Tohoku’ between 2009 and 2012.
At the same time I photographed ‘Kuragari’.
I stayed at a friend’s home.
He lives in Tohoku, in the Iwate prefecture, in Kamaishi.
One day after dinner,
He asked me,
“Have you ever seen a deer at night?”
After that we ran around the mountain by car.
But we couldn’t see them.
He said “time to call it a night and go home”.
We saw two deer watching us in the dark.
And they walked way, just like that.
I know that this darkness hasn’t changed since ancient times.
(Tatsuki Masaru, 2013)
You can also see ‘Tohoku’ on Tatsuki Masaru’s website: tatsukimasaru.com/tohoku/
15 May 2013 . Posted by João Bento
The Portuguese music duo Will and Dia-Sim have written a new song, ‘Old Paper Print’ to celebrate the 1st anniversary of Fauna & Flora. We are very happy and proud of this collaboration. Last summer we saw Will and Dia-Sim playing live in Vila Ruiva, in an intimate venue, and we were amazed by their music. We can’t wait for their first tour in the UK!
Lyrics: Will / Dia-Sim
Performed by: Dia-Sim
The sun is in debt to the rain
My camera collects too much grain
At night there’s no moon
It’s all foggy and dark
I sink in my room and I open my ark
And I watch one by one
My old trees my old sun
My old pictures in old celluloid
And old paper print holding time
Holding seas holding tides
Holding birds dropping food in their nests
Old paper print holding skies
Holding dust holding clouds
And the cat rolling out on the grass
I hang all these prints on the walls
(sort them by spring, winter, summer and fall)
from the floor to the ceiling I cover them all
and it feels like I’m surrounded by nature’s grand show/ old paper print holding…
02 May 2013 . Posted by João Bento
On the 23rd of October 2012, fine art photographer Jo Longhurst (winner of The Grange Prize 2012) gave a talk at the Manchester Museum. Her talk was called ‘What a Dog Might Tell Us: On Photography, Perfectibility, and the Aesthetics of Breed’. It was part of a bigger event, the exhibition ‘Breed: The British & their Dogs’ which also took place at the museum. Jo Longhurst’s presentation was introduced by writer and art historian Carol Mavor.
Fauna & Flora went to Manchester and filmed Jo’s exceptional presentation.
13 April 2013 . Written by João Bento
I am in love with Julia Schlosser’s series ‘Inflict’ which shows parts of her body with small injuries made by her pets (mostly cats, I presume.) It is a very simple project that was made using a cheap device, – a home scanner – and I find it aesthetically engaging and it has lots of depth.
The photographs from ‘Inflict’ activate many memories from my own childhood. When I was about six or seven years old I used to go out and play on the street with my friends. We would move around looking for anything interesting to do. Very often we would discover little kittens. Some had escaped from the litter and got lost, others had been dumped by someone who already had too many cats. I took many of those cats – maybe ten – to the small apartment where I lived with my parents. I do not remember them living with us for a long time, most likely they were given to someone who could take better care of them. I really enjoyed having cats at home. I was an only child for a long time, I was often bored and the cats were “something fun to play with”. The injuries that we can observe in Julia Schlosser’s photos are familiar to me. I did too many things to those cats. I gave them a bath, I taped their paws, I tried to make them friends with my hamsters (that did not end well!), etc. Poor cats, I regret many things I did to them. They were right to inflict injuries on me.
Please visit Julia Schlosser’s website: juliaaschlosser.wordpress.com
06 March 2013 . Written by Catarina Fontoura
Mike and Doug Starn are identical twins and American artists born in 1961. Their work deals conceptually with photography and they are concerned largely with ideas of chaos, interconnections, time and physics. According to Demetrio Paparoni, who wrote the critical text ‘Tree of Life’ (in the book ‘Attracted to Light’ by Doug and Mike Starn), the Starn twins, like Renaissance artists, consider art to be an instrument to know the world and this view implies a relationship between Art and Science.
‘Attracted to Light’ (published as a book in 2004) is a series of photographs of winged nocturnal insects – moths – that, in the context of the work, serve as a metaphor for a reflection of light. For the Starns, light is everything: “light is power, knowledge, it is want we want, it is what we need, it is satisfaction, fulfilment, truth and purity.” They see the moth’s attraction to light (phototropism) as a spiritual quest that all of us might undertake at some point in our lives: “we are all moths.”
‘Attracted to Light’ is part of a larger group of artworks called ‘Absorption of Light’ that was exhibited in Stockholm in 2005. The exhibition, featuring eight monumental photographs, was illuminated by a single, blinding, carbon arc lamp of about 45,000 watts raised 13-foot in the air. This radical installation format emphasizes the importance of light in the Starns’ work. Light not only becomes part of the work itself, but it is also the central piece, allowing (or demanding) the photographs to orbit around it as the planets orbit around the sun. The photographs and the lamp become one colossal homage to the existence of light.
The two moth portraits in the exhibition are vivid – and disconcerting so – by virtue of their monumental scale. The scale allows us, together with the immersive artificial light, to see ourselves existing in the moths’ scale. This uncanny effect is exalted by the tactility of the Thai Mulberry paper the photographs have been printed on, the texture of which is reminiscent of the texture of a moth’s wing, extremely fragile and dusty. The fragility of the art objects and of the insects reminds us in equal measure that light can be divine but also mortal.
Mike and Doug Starn’s website: www.starnstudio.com
18 February 2013
E. O. Wilson is one of the foremost biologists of our time and he draws our attention to the little things that rule the world.
As an entomologist, he makes links between the insects and the endangered fauna and flora of our planet. He points out that, if insects were to become extinct, the environment on Earth would quickly fall into chaos, resulting from the extinction of the unpollenated plants.
Whereas people need insects to survive, insects don’t need people.
If the human race were to disappear, it would be highly unlikely that any species of insects would become extinct, with the exception of three kinds of louse that survive only on the human head and body.
It’s a curious fact that the total number of ants on the planet could be as many as 10 thousand billion, and they weigh almost the same as 6.5 thousand million human beings.
And, E.O. Wilson ponders, does anyone believe that these tiny creatures only exist to occupy space?
Catherine Chalmers : ‘The Leafcutters’
Written by João Bento
Catherine Chalmers is a self-confessed admirer of Edward O. Wilson’s studies about ants. ‘The Leafcutters’ is the name of her new project about the leafcutter ants, genera Atta colombica.
The leafcutting ants, such as the Atta, cut and harvest the live plant material that is the basis of their diet. Millions of workers inhabit huge subterranean nest structures with hundreds of interconnected fungus garden chambers. The harvesting process is only possible by means of cooperation and division of labour among the individuals. Leaves are cut by some workers and dropped to the ground for further fragmentation. This material is then transported into the nest by other workers where it is taken to the garden chambers to decompose. Catherine Chalmers’ photographs look at this complex behaviour in an aesthetic away.
Her photographs are divided into four groups: ‘Antworks in Progress’, ‘Antworks’, ‘Offerings’ and ‘War’. The photographs from ‘Offerings’ (some of which we are showing here with this post) are well-lit, close-up shots of ants transporting fragments of plants, photographed against a white background. Captured this way, we can fully admire the body of the ants – their physical prowess! – and observe with detail the interesting and beautiful vegetation they carry.
Chalmers made five trips to Central America between 2007 and 2012 to photograph and film the Atta. The result is a multimedia piece that comprises photographs, videos, drawings and sculptures. Her work premiered last summer at DeNovo Gallery in Idaho and it is currently being shown at Imago Galleries in California.
Catherine Chalmers’ exhibition catalogue, printed by DeNovo Gallery, can be consulted at Fauna & Flora Library: faunaandflora.org/library/
You can see more of Catherine Chalmers’ work on her website: catherinechalmers.com/
Ilda Teresa Castro is a Portuguese researcher in Ecomedia and Animal Studies. She is also the proud owner of five beautiful cats.
04 February 2013 . Written by Catarina Fontoura
‘Silence of Breath’ was shot in a summer evening at Fuji Safari Park in Japan. Mountains such as Fuji are so large that they create their own weather. According to Yoko Naito, “near Mount Fuji there is often a very strange weather – I could not see five meters ahead of me because of the very thick fog”. This is probably what separates Yoko’s images from other images of animals – the intense fog that helps to create an unreal scenario. The creatures are peaceful yet assertive, they appear to be aware of the strange, silent fog and seem to be waiting for it to clear away.
“I could hear the breath from the animals
They won’t say anything to us.
They stare at us in the silence of breath”
The artificiality of the habitat Yoko photographed, the safari and the fog on that summer evening, make us aware of the unfeeling eyes of the creatures, a sensation that does not leave us until the last picture. The title refers to something not immediately visual – the breath – and this makes us think about our other senses and, certainly, it changes the way we see the thick fog. Because of this title, we can feel and hear the breathing of the big mammals and imagine the fog as an extension of their existence.
Yoko Naito is a Japanese photographer based in New York. Amongst other things, she is concerned with concepts of landscape and nature.
Yoko Naito’s Website: www.yokonaito.com