16 November 2012
We showed the work of photographer Andrew Bruce to the illustrator L Filipe dos Santos (also known as Corcoise). We asked Filipe to have a think about the black and white fox picture that Andrew has on his website (www.brucebruce.co.uk) and , as a result, he created a new illustration based on it.
15 October 2012
We are proud to announce the first ever Fauna & Flora curated exhibition Nemini Parco by Spanish photographer Jesus Monterde.
The exhibition will take place at Fauna & Flora Gallery (Newport, Wales) from Thursday 8th of November 2012 to Friday 14th of December 2012.
Visits are to be arranged with the curators, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 07722048686.
Details about the exhibition here.
26 September 2012
We contacted Chris Shaw to find out more about his project Weeds of Wallasey. We found the relationship between the images and the captions in his work to be very interesting. Every photograph has a short statement or title written directly inside the frame. This allows us to have a closer insight into the photographer’s mind and intentions. His response to our message was, “Weeds are us”.
Chris Shaw’s full project Weeds of Wallasey can be seen online here: beforeandafternightporter.com/weeds_of_wallasey
03 September 2012 . Photograph by Grant Cornett . Text by Rebeka Ulicna
¨Banana!¨ he shouted at me.
(He just let me loose
¨Banana! Look here, girl!¨
I was updating my status* in the neighbourhood (*Yes, still single. So what?)
and checking for some news,
nothing special really,
some smell of old food
and some… –
¨Banana! Come on! What takes you so long?¨
So annoying, this guy.
I admit, I wasn´t in the mood.
I remember his name was Grant,
or something like that… never mind.
Why should I look into the camera,
when there´s so much more to find
in the sniffing of grass and running around?
He pushed the button anyway, and this photo he took.
That´s the reason, why that foolish I look.
But I am quite attractive, really, just don´t like being photographed…
01 June 2012
The project The Life of Things explores ideas of the object as symbol, the contrasts between organic and inorganic things and the ephemerality of life itself. The three photographs relate to each other in multiple ways and, as Emma explains:
‘Each object has a meaning (wealth, knowledge, pleasure, etc) and as a whole, the collection of objects symbolises the impermanence of man and the futility of earthly pleasures.’
Emma Robinson is a London based photographer and she is currently studying for a Masters in Photographic Studies at University of Westminster, which will culminate in an exhibition in London’s Ambika P3 Gallery in September 2012. Fauna & Flora will be there to take a look at Emma’s new work and to talk to her about it. We are looking forward to it.
Emma Robinson’s website: www.emmatsrobinson.co.uk
25 May 2012
Wout Berger is a Dutch photographer who was born in Ridderkerk in 1941 and is currently based in Uitdam.
Berger is interested in unusual natural sites that are, for him, potential photographic landscapes. In his work he explores the state of disharmony that exists between urban and industrial progress and the well-being of the natural world. He produces pictures of a conflict that nature has no way of winning, except by its beauty.
In the late 1980s he was working in contaminated sites. For his project Giflandschap, or Poisoned Landscape, he photographed 170 chemical waste dump sites where he found nature struggling to survive in such extreme conditions.
In 2003 he produced Ruigoord, a project which looked at an area that had been prepared for building by using sand mixed with wild flower seeds to hold the sand down.
His solidarity with the daily struggle of plants, and his way of creating different ambiences related to different plants, is inspiring and deserves to be better understood.
Fauna & Flora: Can you tell us about your interest in nature and, more specifically, your interest in flora and how this came to be a key element of your work?
Wout Berger: I see culture as a niche of nature. All human action – war, overpopulation, the trek to the cities, intensive agricultural and cattle farming etc. – is a natural development. There is a conflict between nature in its widest sense and culture (which is part of nature). I look forward with curiosity, but without value judgment.
F&F: In the western world, our attitudes towards nature mostly fall into one of two categories: utilitarian or aesthetical. Do you agree that your work encourages an active questioning of both of these historical and yet contemporary attitudes?
WB: Yes, I agree.
F&F: Can you tell us a little about your personal attitude towards nature?
WB: I show what can be seen if you look carefully at what is to hand and I reflect that in a precise photographic recording. By more sharply representing than the eye on site can observe this photography withdraws itself to the trusted perception. She shows both my interest for details in the landscape and my conception concerning photography. By omitting benchmarks and scale references such as the horizon, houses, people or cars there creeps an abstract element in the image.
F&F: Your Poisoned Landscapes are beautiful and terrible simultaneously, which was a key concept in landscape representation in Romantic painting. There are several more references to painting in your work. Is this deliberate?
WB: In the Poisoned Landscape series lies the contrast between an attractive outer appearance and an unpleasant content. The beautiful landscape as cliché, paintings by Dutch masters from the Golden Age, I could use these as a style element. However, I am aware that beauty (i.e., aesthetic beauty) has a function but it can also can be a pitfall. There is too much photography which wants to score only on an aesthetic level.
F&F: Am I right in thinking that because your work does not specifically refer visually to the canon of traditional landscape art it must have a hidden meaning?
WB: There is no hidden meaning. Photography is the medium of the outside. By very careful observation I try to bring any meaning to the surface.
F&F: To clarify, in your work there is often an absence of a horizon or sky lines, you choose to point the camera down instead of keeping it vertical and you give attention to details that have unique shapes. These elements make your landscapes absolutely non-traditional. Do you think that this could be a metaphorical way to say that we need to look at nature in a different way?
WB: I think I answered that question already. Look, and look again. I admire ‘primitive’ peoples, how they experience the world around them and treat that world with respect. Modern man has won a lot, but has also lost something.
F&F: You use a large format camera. Can you tell us anything about your choice of this as a method of working?
WB: With a big negative it is possible to capture more information. There is almost no image noise.
F&F: The title of your book Like Birds (2009) suggests a unity between living things. Can you explain a bit more about how you came up with this idea for the book?
WB: It is a way of looking but also a way of moving, ramble on and jump. It opened up all kinds of possibilities for shaping the book.
F&F: In your project De Kerf, in Ruigoord, you were photographing an area where flora was used for human development purposes. There, weeds were no longer weeds, they had utilitarian value. In his book The Beauty of Being Plant, Patrick Blanc says ‘there is no such thing as weeds’. Do you agree with this idea?
WB: Yes I agree, except in my garden!
F&F: What is next for you and your photographic relationship with nature?
WB: Dutch Light. Joseph Beuys saw the IJsselmeer as ‘the eye of Holland’, as a large reflecting mirror. And the Dutch, he believed, had only one sense, which is Sight. As a result of reclaiming land from the lake, Beuys said, they would have blinded themselves. I live in the small village of Uitdam on the banks of the IJsselmeer. For two years I have been photographing the view and the light from my back garden using 4×5 inch negative. The series consists of approximately sixty analogue prints. All the photographs are taken from the same position, all are verticals and the horizon runs through the middle of the image. The light may be hard or soft. Moisture in the atmosphere leads to colour casts that are characteristic of the famous Dutch light. In the morning, when I open my eyes, the first thing I look at is the IJsselmeer and the light – always the same, but always different.
Wout Berger’s website: www.woutberger.nl
08 May 2012
The trees change continually over the year, until the day (or maybe only a few hours) when they sing, bursting full of energy.
In the project Blossom it seems as if the very moment when these trees were photographed is, in fact, the peak of their reproductive growth. Such a coincidence is impossible, but what a beautiful coincidence it would be. After that moment the flowers would start to decline and fall and the tree would live only to prepare that moment again for the following year.
The branches and flowers blend with the sky in a dream-like scenario and we cannot help but be reminded of Eastern imagery. In the Buddhist tradition, blossom symbolizes both the transient nature of life and, at the same time, the idea of the never-ending cycles of nature. It does not matter what will happen in between, the trees will blossom again.
You can see the complete set of images on Gawain Barnard’s website: www.gawainbarnard.com
02 May 2012
Giovanni Aloi is the founder and editor-in-chief of the quarterly, online publication Antennae – the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. Aloi is also the author of the book Art and Animals which has recently been published by I.B.Tauris. Fauna & Flora went to meet him at Queen Mary’s University in London to discuss his work. We spoke about his early interest in animals, the beginning of Antennae and the making of his new book.
Fauna & Flora: When did your interest in animals in art first start?
Giovanni Aloi: My interest in animals and art dates back to my childhood when I was interested in the two subjects, but separately. Later on I had to make a decision about which of those subjects I should study further. I realised that studying animals, whether it was through ethology or through natural history, would have involved a lot of chemistry and biology. Because of that I decided that art was much more suited to me. Around the year 2000 I read Steve Baker’s book, The Postmodern Animal, about the use of animal imagery in Postmodern Art and I realised that the two areas of study could come together. Shortly after that I began a Masters degree at Goldsmiths that allowed me to research the subject in more depth.
F&F: Insects and plants are also part of your particular interests…
GA: My parents are from the South of Italy but I grew up in Milan. Every summer, as soon as school finished, I would go to the South where I would spend a few months. In the South my life was all about nature – spotting crickets, locusts, butterflies and toads in fields, and looking them up in books. I was always trying to find them in the countryside, and there were always plenty there: the place was bubbling with life. Milan, on the other hand, where I would spend most of the year, was very grey and the few green areas there were seemed depleted of any sort of life. These green areas were urban green, with no concern at all for wildlife: if any happened to be there it was more likely to be considered a pest rather than anything to be valued.
If you grew up in Milan you were likely to live in a flat with no garden and my parents were always against keeping cats or dogs in flats which do not have that facility. Because of that, the most exciting thing I kept as pet, at least at the start, was a goldfish contained in its own little bowl. Then I moved on to a tropical tank and after that to more unusual things like snakes, lizards and toads. Even if, as a child, I really wanted to have a cat or a dog, right now it seems my experience has paid off. I understand now that if you were treated to a dog during childhood you probably would not see the point in all those other animals that do not return your gaze, that don’t come snuggling up to your lap: the relational is harder to establish but that does not mean there isn’t any. It is totally fine that people love more conventional pets. However, I am much more fascinated by insects, reptiles and fish and the kind of remoteness that they inhabit, a remoteness which makes the space between us so vast and difficult to bridge. This remoteness is not something I find daunting, if anything it keeps me going.
F&F: In the book Art and Animals you describe Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project exhibited at TATE Modern in 2003 as your ‘wake up call’ and the beginning of an ‘unlearning process’. Can you explain a bit more about that?
GA: The Weather Project played an important role in promoting the wider idea that the subject of animals and the environment can reach large audiences and have quite an impact. It was an incredible exhibit, and of course the environmental subtext was there to see. People came to it for different reasons, perhaps because it offered a sublime experience, or because it was a novelty. With the idea of an animal revolution in art – if we can call it that – it is very important that the art engages with wider audiences. The Weather Project offered an opportunity to embrace this discourse on that level and, therefore, was something unique.
The idea of unlearning is very much related to the fact that we came to life surrounded by animals and we are programmed to understand animals as either a resource or something to anthropomorphise. It is very difficult for people to step out of that program later on in life and begin to look at animals and nature in different ways, in new ways. It requires quite an effort and that’s where art and, of course, philosophy can help, by showing us new paths.
F&F: In your book you make a connection between Damien Hirst’s shark and Joana Vasconcelos’ dogs. Both projects are presented as case studies that allow you to explain different ways of working with animal subjects within the art world…
GA: Some art that uses animals is very much about the necessity of killing the animal to attract attention for purposes that may have nothing to do with the animal itself. Vasconcelos’ approach is very similar in essence to Hirst’s, in that death is a visible and key element in both artists’ work but with Vasconcelos the messages are sent without having to kill the animal. I have to say that with Damien Hirst this becomes problematic, as the killing of the shark in his famous work is commissioned for the purpose. There is a risk that artists who are not really interested in the meaning and the scope of animal revolution may find themselves joining in just because they realise that including an animal, and doing things to an animal, in a work of art has the potential for propelling their name to fame. Another point to note is that, just because an artwork capitalises on animals in order to create sensationalism does not mean implicitly make it an artwork of dubious value. Eduardo Kac’s GFP Bunny, from 2000, employed an animal as an instrument in order to generate discussion. There is actually something quite interesting about that work, where Eduardo Kac was in fact saving the rabbit from being used for scientific experimentation which would have lead to the killing of the animal. Artworks like these are bound to attract attention but are also regularly misunderstood and dismissed: this is however also part of the machine that the art world sets up.
(Antennae issue 20)
F&F: The online journal Antennae has been essential to your research, but it has also become an important element of the bibliography of artists, academics and students. It is, in our opinion, a very successful project. Can you tell us how it started?
GA: Antennae started at the toilets in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. While I was waiting for my partner to come out of the toilet I noticed a poster on the wall with a photograph of a snake. It was the cover of a magazine. However, there was some quality to the snake image that suggested that it could be an art work rather than a documentary image of a snake. I walked over to the poster thinking ‘it might be a magazine or a journal on animals in art!’ Of course it just turned out to be for a museum publication that had nothing to do with art. The idea of producing a journal on the subject of animals in art began to form there.
F&F: Who helped you?
GA: Nobody helped me, apart from discussing it with my partner, which was very helpful. I don’t believe in depending on funding or institutions to back me up. When I want to start something, I just start it. If I wait for the bureaucracy to fall into place in order for things to happen a great idea might never get off the ground. So, I just tried to quantify how much time this project would take me and how much money it would cost me. With the Internet I knew you could effectively create an online publication that would cost next to nothing and yet it could reach wide audiences. I set out to produce a first issue, which was scary to do and involved endless research: I scouted the Internet for artists that looked newer and fresher. At the beginning I had a standard email to send out which explained what the project was about, but I had nothing to show, not even one finished issue. I think it was great that people believed in the idea, that they found it exciting and that they allowed me to publish their work. I think the first issue was 35 pages or so and it felt like a major task to put to together, it required a lot of work. Now I don’t put out anything with less than 100 / 120 pages, and I have help. I remember those first months as quite chaotic, I was staying up until 3am every night and looking back I think, how did I do that? I am still not sure.
F&F: We have mentioned your book Art and Animals, published at the end of 2011. The book is about the presence of the animal in contemporary art. What were your goals, considering that Steve Baker had already written the The Postmodern Animal on the same topic?
GA: If anything, I would like very much for people to read The Postmodern Animal and then perhaps look at my book to see what happened after, in terms of art production and in terms of the ideas that Steve Baker set out. The Postmodern Animal was published in 2000 and so much more has taken place in the arts since then.
I devised the book as a continuous stream of thought that begins from a specific point, the idea of unlearning, and then follows on from that, trying through discourse to map as many areas of the recent human-animals discourse as possible. The book clearly reflects my own interests in the field as well as portraying the main themes of the animals and art discourse. I tried, as much as I could, to give equal weight, or exposure, to the different subject areas. I tried to be as fair as possible with regards to coverage of mammals and insects. I even managed to sneak in plants, even though the book is called Art and Animals. I had to choose case studies that people could understand clearly and that would advance the discussion in the book and in the field of animals in art. The book is part of a series that aims to be accessible. So, even though it is an academic book it should serve as an introduction to the subject for those people who may not have previously engaged with it. Therefore, it had to be accessible in terms of language and also in terms of referencing academic and philosophical work. I had to explain things quite clearly and simply instead of it becoming a convoluted, cryptic volume which, of course, it could also have been. But, effectively, the idea was for it to be accessible and this is also why I believe there was a need for the book.
(Art & Animals front cover)
You can find more about Antennae here: www.antennae.org.uk
Giovanni Aloi’s book Art and Animals can be bought online on: www.amazon.co.uk