July 21, 2012

Art Critical Zoology

Institute of Critical Zoologists, Iriamondi Cat (Pulau Pejantan series) 2009, via P·P·O·W

"Pulau Pejantan is a remote island of Indonesia. Nick-named Sand Forest Island, Pulau Pejantan is a unique island with extremely unique geographical features and biodiversity. Virtually undiscovered till June 2005, the island boosts a treasure trove of unique species that is found no where else in the world such as the bizarre sand worms which moves about like packs of snakes around the island's dune to the Lantern Fish which greets you in the sea before you reach the island.

Isolated in the Pacific Ocean, about 70% of the estimated 600 species found on the island exist nowhere else on the globe. The island is home to such evolutionary oddities as the Ghost Hare, a black and white hound like animal, pale-white reptiles and birds which has adapted to the sand dunes and forest habitat, spiny burrowing ant-eaters, and the rock pheasant, a bird that lives in the sand dunes." (via)

Long Tail Paradise Crow, 2009

The Institute for Critical Zoologists aims to develop a critical approach to the zoological gaze, or how humans view animals. Urban societies live in relative isolation from animals; however, our demand and gaze upon them have grown significantly over the last century. It is undeniable that looking at animals is considered both desirable and pleasurable in societies. Animals convey meaning and values that are culture-specific, and in viewing the animal, we cannot escape the cultural context, political climate and social values in which that observation takes place.

The relationship between animals and humans has reached an appalling state. There is increased visual exploitation of animals (there are more then a thousand zoos in the world and twice as many natural history museums); and there is exploitation of animals as commodity (tiger parts are traded for commerce to save them in China). Not to mention the environmental, ecological, cultural threats of zoos, animal performances, animal agriculture, poaching, economic-driven conservation biology, natural history museums displays and animal memorabilia, to which human anthropomorphism plays a pivotal role.

We seek to develop a Critical Zoological Gaze that pursues creative, interdisciplinary research that includes perspectives typically ignored by animal studies, such as aesthetics; and to advance unconventional, even radical, means of understanding human and animal relations. The institute also discourages anthropomorphism in the appreciation and understanding of zoology."

See and read more about the Pulau Pejantan series, by Institute of Critical Zoologists. A click through the entire image gallery is highly recommended.

If you live in New York, see the first picture in person at P·P·O·W gallery's Earth WORKS: Ten Artists on Land and Industry, through July 27.

July 12, 2012


It's where I left my heart.

After five long weeks, I am so close to returning.

But nothing is ever exactly as you left it.

Things can not be just as they once were.

The beauty of continuity, is the ability to continue.

Traversing, and building new things, with love.

July 10, 2012

Time, Space, Bodies

For a long time I've wanted to write about Comme des Garçons. It's no secret I'm a fan. A summary of reasons, any sort of list, any sort of logical cohesive explanation of this fandom is basically impossible. I am captivated by an essay, by Cathy Horyn, on the sheer power of Rei Kawakubo's presence, and her silence.

Some things do not need an explanation.


I get asked about this tattoo more often than I prefer.

This was taken moments after it was finished. It is lighter now. Blurrier around the edges, and the ink is gray.

I never have time to tell it's full story. Usually, I'm not given the chance. I'm simply asked to turn or to lift a short sleeve or to otherwise accommodate the curiosity of a non-acquaintance gawker whose short attention span will momentarily be focused upon my body. I typically acquiesce.

"What is it?"

"Is it a cover up?"

Once, a dad, standing behind me in a line at the Minnesota state fair, nodded down knowingly to his pre-teen son to incorrectly but authoritatively state, "That's a cover up. She used to have something else."

To which I turned, and returned, "It's not a cover up."

Most recently, in a supermarket, a brief disagreement between the checker and the bag boy regarding the honesty of my answer to the cover up question.

Bag boy: "Well, I guess some wouldn't want to admit if it was, if they made a mistake."

Checker: "No, usually people tell you if it's a cover up."

Me: What the hell is this conversation? Can I please leave? Can I run from here with my almond milk as fast as possible? In the delicate balance I'm maintaining between grimacing silence and faux-polite yet sarcastic laughter, is my irritation registering?

Later: Was I too bitchy?

It's just that it's not a cover up, and I hadn't thought about that misread before I made this decision. I do not want people to think this is part of some mistake or accident. (They do anyhow.) This was a decision. An impulsive one, but a decision no less. An image was chosen.

That images is a fashion illustration.

It comes from a book found by a friend inside of Powell's Books in Portland. Powell's is wonderful place. Two best friends and I were certain we could find tattoo inspiration in Powell's.

It was decided that we would all three get fashion illustrations as tattoos. I had narrowed it down to a couple, but this one was the one. The more I looked at it, the more I liked this idea of a blobby black blob shadow of a lady. She would grace the back of my arm.

And so we found a lovely tattoo shop.

I was in the loveliest tattoo shop, with my lovely friends, getting an ugly tattoo. It's not actually ugly, just, you know, unconventional?

The image itself is an illustration by Mats Gustafson from Italian Vogue, 1997. On the Mats Gustafson page on Fashion Illustration Gallery, I also found this. Which I also like.

The illustration that is on my arm is of a fleeting moment during a Comme des Garcons runway show for the Spring 1997 line, the "Lumps and Bumps" collection. I believe that the illustration is based on the center image, below. Or, at least it is likely based on some other version of that particular dress. And I like to believe, though I cannot be sure, that the image is of her walking away, as seen from the back (with plush kidney and candy corn attached).

This is forever on my arm. I can't explain it well when people speak to me about it. But recently I found validation. I've been spending much more time than ever before with girl children. There are four of them presently in my life, two sets of sisters who are part of two different families. Separately, I've been told, "I like the princess the best," and, "I like the lady." One is four, the other six. They are incredibly interested in seeing my tattoos. I liked the princess compliment. My young friend was able to see past the dark, shadowed, asymmetrical surface of ink embedded in skin, straight through to the billows of silk and tulle that fill out the imaginary skirt on this shadow of a woman's form.

A tattoo of an illustration of a runway photo of a dress that forms part of a collection borne of a vision and a dream. These shapes and forms remind me of how consciousness and the unconscious spark into a potential to create something extraordinary and thoughtful, singular and still somehow familiar. The trace of creativity is handed over from one person to another in this series of connections from Japan in the late 1990s, to my upper arm in the middle of nowhere in 2012. The impression on my skin is not about reproduction or simulacra, but a remembrance of an attractive idea.

Maybe now I can stop worrying what other people think of it.