Dornith Doherty’s project ‘Archiving Eden’ (2008 – ongoing) – the extraordinary visual power of x-rays photographs and collages of seeds and tissue samples stored in crucial world collections as poetic questions about life, time and our future, and the tension between stillness and change.
“I am struck by the power of these tiny plantlets and seeds (many are the size of a grain of sand) to generate life and to endure the time span central to the process of seed banking, which seeks to make these sparks last for two hundred years or more.”
Dornith Doherty – Archiving Eden
The project started in a collaboration with seed banks to document their preservation efforts in the face of climate change and the extinction of natural species – a kind of Noah’s arks of planet’s botanical diversity. There are 1.400 such banks in the world and they range from small private to massive governmental institutions. They serve as a global botanical backup system to assure the opportunity for reintroduction of species in case of a catastrophic event or civil strife affect a key ecosystem somewhere in the world.
“Photographs are a trace of something that was recorded in the past and when you look at them in the present, there is that tension between the past and the present that makes the passage of time an underpinning element of all photography. These collections, these libraries of life preserve the present for the future that is so distant that can’t even be known… The use of the color delft/indigo blue evokes references not only to the process of cryogenic preservation, central to the methodology of saving seeds, but also to the intersection of east and west, trade, cultural exchange, and migration.
Dornith Doherty – Archiving Eden
To learn more about the project and the seed banks, there is an interesting and inspiring talk given by the artist at TED and a book published in 2017 with some of the photographs made by then.
Dune Varela’s series ‘Toujours le soleil’ (‘Forever the sun’) – by shooting the prints with a gun experimenting with accidents in a process of losing control upon the result as a creative search of dual meaning about destruction and the fragility of the material.
Dune Varela – Forever the sun
“What interest me most is working on the materiality of the images and conducting somewhat physical experiments on them. I like to explore the idea of re-representation because an image is already a representation and how it is represented a new in an exhibition… I like incorporate accidents in my work. One day I said ‘I’d like to shoot at the image. I’m going to be the Niki de Saint Phalle of photography”.
The project was created as the BMW Residency award won by the artist in 2016 where she was given a ‘carte blanche’ to further her photographic research and experimentation.
Carrie Mae Weems series ‘Sea Islands’ (1991-1992) – through highlighting the significance of the landscape along the Georgia/Carolina coast in the United States bringing to present the memory of silenced people from the Creole culture once brought there as slaves.
“One midnight at high tide, a ship bringing in a cargo of Ebo (Ibo) men landed at Dunbar Creek on the Island of St. Simons. But the men refused to be sold into slavery; joining hands together they turned back toward the water, chanting, “The water brought us, the water will take us away.” The all drowned, but to this day when the breeze sighs over the marshes and through the trees, you can hear the clank of chains and echo of their chant at Ebo Landing.”
It all started as a desire to preserve his childhood memories from the Finish countryside when the photographer found out he would become father, but gradually the idea adopted also the concept of preserving the threatened nature.
Christoffer Relander – Jarred and Displaced
“Reality can be beautiful, but the surreal often absorbs me. Photography to me is a way to express and stimulate my imagination. Nature is simply the world. With alternative and experimental camera techniques I am able to create artworks that otherwise only would be possible through painting or digital manipulation in an external software.”
Daren You’s series ‘Chaos’ – dark tones for infinite universe, wind, clouds, water for unpredictable elements as subjects, and merging different photographic techniques, in exploring the chaos as completely disordered event.
Daren You – Chaos
“Chaos is a property of dynamic systems. A dynamic system is nothing more than a source of changing observations. It is impossible to predict and control. If law and order rule the universe, chaos, by contrast, is its totally disorganized opposite. In order to liberate my photographs completely, I have intentionally introduced chaos into my images.
I used several techniques from historic to contemporary to process the same image such reticulated film through a high temperature developing process, liquid emulsion, inkjet printing, darkroom printing and encaustic painting. These multi-layered photos push beyond the edge of artistic control and merge as complex and unconstrained.”
Xiaoyi Chen’s series ‘Koan’ – using the photogravure process and with Eastern aesthetic to explore beneath the surface of symbolic and following to the Zen and Taoist philosophy opening up the territory of the pre-verba in getting closer to the concept of purity.
Xiaoyi Chen – Koan
“Tao and Zen always advise people to stay absolutely quiet and purify thought processes. In order to achieve this goal, our attention should focus on the most basic form of the universe’s existence. In Zen Buddhism, Koan is a story or riddle used to help in the attainment of a state of spontaneous reaction, free from planning and analytical thought. In contradiction to Western philosophy, Koans emphasize the inadequacy of language and words, and the importance of intuition over reason and logic, to transform the self.
I named the series Koan, and selected abstract landscape photographs to do a photo-etching process; the results of this craft are poetic and full of imaginations. Also only uses black ink and print on different Japanese papers, the color derives from the atmosphere of desolation and melancholy and the expression of minimalism in ancient Chinese poetry and monochromatic ink painting.”
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s series ‘An Indian from India’ – diptychs combining archival images from the 19th and early 20th century of Native Americans with her self-portraits, to challenge the legacies of colonial pasts of more than 500 years and exploring the ‘otherness’ of identity.
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew – An Indian from India
“As an immigrant, I am often questioned about where I am “really from.” When I say that I am Indian, I often have to clarify that I am an Indian from India. It seems strange that all this confusion started because Christopher Columbus thought he had found the Indies and called the native people of America collectively as Indians.”
With themes like assimilation and assumptions about minorities, and titles ‘Red Indian’ / ’Brown Indian’ or ‘Noble Savage / ‘Savage Noble’, the confusion is not only around the word “Indian” but has deeper roots in stereotypes of the notion of ‘primitive natives’ and races relations.
Caitriona Dunnett’s series ‘Mass Paths’ – landscapes of the Irish countryside in hunting for traces of people who walked the paths during penal times to reach illegal mass, in her attempt to investigate history and memory, and capture their stories of resilience, courage and commitment.
Caitriona Dunnett – Mass Paths
“The Penal Laws were imposed on Catholics in Ireland in 1695 and religion was prohibited. The Church was kept alive by operating under great secrecy. My aim is to visually unearth the history behind these paths and the people who walked them. The locations of these sites were passed on by word of mouth… I spent years researching…
I have been experimenting with converting the digital photographs of my walks into contact negatives, creating and then toning cyanotypes, opening up a dialogue between photography, painting and etching. I am engaged by how this multi-layered process echoes that of a landscape which has been coated over the years by the complexities and tensions of politics, society, religion and people.”
Yang Yongliang’s series ‘The Peach Blossom Colony’ – an idyllic society in a state of equality and romanticism, residing an illusional and reconstructed settings based on modern reality as a hopeless despair of the lost symbolic carrier of spirituality.
“As modern society rapidly develops, materialism and consumerism gradually corrodes and takes over the world of spirituality, whereas the same concrete buildings and constructions keep replacing the natural green forests. With the human moral standards degraded and corroded by materialistic desires, I believe that this “Land of Peach Blossoms” exists just the same in the subconsciousness of those city-dwellers today who are still in touch with their conscience.”
Yang Yongliang – The Peach Blossom Colony
The idea is based on Tao Yuan Ming’s fable ‘The Tale of the Peach Blossom Colony’ written in 421. It tells a story of a chance discovery by a fisherman of an ethereal utopia where the people lead an ideal existence in harmony with nature, unaware of the outside world for centuries. The road to it was surrounded by blossoming peach trees and covered by peach petals.
The series started in 2008 and took the artist over three years to develop. He portrayed his ‘ancient literati’ dressed in plain clothes to avoid any apparent distinction in class, ranks, wealth or poverty as well as time period, space, and cultural boundaries.
“When viewed from a distance one sees a harmonious and quiet scene, when viewed closely one sees that it is filled with visual disorders of time and space. When one observes at a close distance one would find a lot of metaphorical elements of mechanics and modernization are hidden in the painting. The appearance of these elements immediately shatters the perceived atmosphere of peace and quietness, and produces a tension in the image right away. The originally harmonious elements have experienced a dramatically contrasting change, implying the connections and conflicts between these elements. The emergence of these contradictions expresses my all-time message and reflections on the conflicts between modern constructions and ecology, and between traditional culture and modern lifestyle.”
Dag Alveng’s series ‘I Love This Time of Year’ – multi-exposure photographs from New York streets interweaving time and space of metropolis like a quantum kaleidoscope with infinite variations of urban reality. Constructed in aesthetic symmetrical cross formed rotations, these photographs broaden the perception and ability to recognize the modern world and focus on the possibilities that acquired special meaning as an individual piece of reality.