Tag Archives: Australia

Work in Progress: Death and the Photographic Image

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About a couple of weeks ago, I began to draw a skull onto my face with some black eyeliner, eyeshadow and a very pale foundation. This is my first attempt in about two years and I thought I would practise applying the makeup onto my face before I move onto something more elaborate. I decided to take a few test shots around North Melbourne in order to search for the most appropriate locations and backdrops for a potential photo shoot. Back in 2013, I have taken some self-portraits at the beach in Airey’s Inlet and I thought it would be interesting to take some photographs within the city.

I began to question whether the makeup impacts my perception of death and the human skull? As soon as I create the eye sockets, I begin to realise that death is inevitable, unavoidable, yet so ambiguous; the end of life will eventually occur and my skull will eventually surpass my very own existence.

At times, I am slightly perturbed by the idea, although there are certain stages of the makeup process, where I’ll concentrate on the actual design or the application. There are times, where I won’t think about death until I’ve taken the photograph, as I have the time to go back and reflect upon the overall process. It really depends on my mood or my surroundings, as my interpretation in regards to death changes on a daily basis.

I decided to take some photographs / self-portraits opposite the train station, as well as an empty alleyway that I discovered on my way home. I decided to take some test shots and I intend to revisit the same location for the photo shoot, I was surprised with the results and I was pleased with the photograph next to the train tracks, hopefully I can expand upon this particular idea.

When I viewed the photographs on my computer, I began to realise that the images capture a younger version of myself, I have aged since the time the photo was taken. The overall concept has invited me to consider the idea that every day, every month and every year is another step closer to death.

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In one of my previous posts, I briefly mentioned Susan Sontag’s publication, ‘On Photography’ that explores the camera’s ability to capture one’s own mortality.1 According to Sontag, “photography is the inventory of mortality. A touch of a finger now suffices to invest in a moment with posthumous irony.”2 Sontag’s theories have invited me to question whether my self-portraits will continue to exist after my death?

Have I managed to capture my own mortality through these self-portraits? As I mentioned before, the self-portraits have invited me to explore my ageing process, while the person in the photograph remains young forever, I’ll continue to age everyday until I face the inevitable. The end of life and the beginning of death is such a natural, yet disturbing idea that I do find particularly fascinating and perplexing.

Sontag does explore some very interesting concepts relating to the connection between death and photography. The author refers to Roman Vishnic who has taken photographs of the ‘ghettos in Poland’ during the early 1930’s and Vishnic realised that the people / civilians would eventually ‘perish’ or disappear.3 Sontag explains that “photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading toward their own destruction, and this link between photography and death haunts all photographs of people.”4

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I agree with Sontag’s theories, as I am haunted by this particular idea and it’s often strange to realise that the people in the photograph or the image will eventually die, everyone will die at some stage including myself.5 In a way, the self-portraits resonate a connection to death and mortality, although I have wondered what would happen to the image if I destroyed the physical surface of the photographic print.

I decided to take a closer look at my self-portraits and I realised that the photographs were very smooth and I decided to destroy the physical surface of the print in order to establish a closer connection to death. I decided to crumple the images and rub the paper together; as a result the ink from the printer tarnished certain areas of the images and the experiment successfully created a distressed effect.

In 2012, I decided to destroy my images using water, cello tape, paint and chalk in order to present the notion of decay and disintegration; I have decided to continue the project in order to determine whether these ideas or concepts have progressed since the beginning of 2012.

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I do prefer the distressed images, as they successfully establish a greater connection to death. I cannot imagine death as a smooth, perfect or pristine image, I imagine death as a body slowly decaying or disintegrating into a decomposing corpse. I believe the images can be destroyed even further in order to establish this particular style, at the moment I’m just exploring different concepts.

Ripping or crumpling the photographic portraits distorted my self-image and the backdrop, when I viewed the images in the laneway, I noticed that the colour has changed to a brown / sepia tone. I actually prefer this particular effect and the change of colour adds to the level of decay, maybe it is possible to find a connection to death through monochromatic or sepia tones.

I have often questioned what happens to the body after death, can the photographic image portray the process of decomposition? This is what I intend to explore over the next few weeks and sometimes it is really difficult to destroy something you’ve created yourself, although it would be interesting to see what happens over time, will these images change in some way? I am really interested to see where this project will take me, this is all I have for now but stay tuned for further updates!

References
1. Susan Sontag, “On Photography” (USA: Penguin Group 1977) p.15
2. Sontag, “On Photography” p.15
3. Sontag, “On Photography” p.15
4. Sontag, “On Photography” p.15
5. Sontag, “On Photography” p.15


Zombies, Skulls and Skeletons parade through Melbourne for the Annual Zombie Shuffle.

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About a week ago, I attended the annual Zombie Shuffle in Melbourne, where thousands of individuals paraded through the streets dressed as flesh-eating zombies, skeletons and other pop culture characters. Many enthusiasts commenced their journey at the Treasury Gardens in Fitzroy and the various costume designs were extremely impressive to say the least!

The level of creativity and imagination was definitely inspiring and I began to frantically take photographs of undead, Disney princesses, skeletons, bridesmaids, nurses, surgeons, cheerleaders, policemen, convicts, school girls and many others. In fact there were so many different zombies, I didn’t know where to look next! It was great to see different age groups attending the event; children were dressed as Zombies along with their parents, while others brought their dogs along for a leisurely walk through Melbourne.

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During the event, I noticed several attendees mixed amongst the gore and the simulated blood with skulls painted onto their faces. I began to ask myself whether the skull is still a popular icon within the contemporary visual culture or everyday life in general?

From a personal point of view, the Zombie Shuffle allows the public to explore the concept of death within a satirical or entertaining manner. The event encourages the community to display their own creativity or imagination and it is interesting to examine the way death is represented.

There was one character in particular who was dressed in an old-fashioned outfit along with the black and white skull makeup. I raced over to take a closer look and I couldn’t stop taking photographs, this costume was definitely my favourite one! While I tried to search for a place to rest, I discovered a young woman with the most extraordinary skull makeup, the overall detail was admirable and the suit complimented the intricate design. I couldn’t leave without taking at least one photograph!

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As I continued to walk through the Treasury Gardens, I recognised a green sugar skull zombie; the colours were amazing and the vibrant designs were certainly intriguing. The make up merged elements of Western popular culture with the Mexican sugar skull designs; these two particular styles provided quite a unique interpretation.

I must admit everyone who attended the Zombie Shuffle looked spectacular and the crowd was throughly entertaining! Towards the afternoon, an amazing ‘percussion group’ known as Maracatu Estrela do Mar paraded through the Treasury Gardens onto Collins street along and the members of the band were wearing black and yellow sugar skull makeup.

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Enthusiastic photographs frantically joined the crowd of zombies that were leisurely following the band down the street and I suddenly began to develop the art of weaving in and out of large, overcrowded groups who began to walk or run besides members of the Zombie Shuffle.

The band in particular was definitely a highlight; I admired the vibrant, sugar skull face paint and the positive atmosphere from the crowd. Maracatu Estrela do Mar reminded me of the Dia De Los Muertos: The Day of the Dead Festival in Mexico and the band provided  a unique twist to the overall event.

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As the crowd reached Federation Square, the Zombie Shuffle collided with a Women’s rights protest and I suddenly found myself in-between a completely different group all together. I would have loved to have stayed to the very end, however I lost my sense of direction and I decided to search for the nearest train station.

Anyway, the Zombie Shuffle was an exciting, exhilarating experience that featured amazing, yet gory Zombies, a fantastic band and a spectacular audience! I would definitely recommend attending the Zombie Shuffle next year for sure!

zombiewatermark31 Check out the Black Calavera Facebook page to view photographs from the event.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackCalavera22

https://www.facebook.com/maracatuestreladomar?fref=nf

https://www.facebook.com/melbournezombieshuffle

ABC, ‘Undead roam Melbourne Streets in Annual Zombie Shuffle,” October 11 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-11/zombie-apocalypse-arrives-in-melbourne/5806796


Brook Andrew: Vox Tasmania at the National Gallery of Victoria

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Human Skull & the Gramophone in Vox Tasmania – Brook Andrew

Yesterday I decided to search through all of my photographs that I have taken over the past year and it’s surprising what you will actually find! I found one photo in particular that immediately captured my attention and I began to wonder why I left this image on my SD card for so long.

In February 2014, I remember visiting the Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria that explored Melbourne’s artistic and cultural diversity. According to the official NGV website, the Melbourne Now exhibition featured a range of contemporary works including visual arts, sculpture, graphic design, architecture and performance art.

I was fascinated with one installation in particular entitled ‘Vox: Tasmania’ by Brook Andrew, a contemporary artist born in Sydney whose work depicts certain issues relating to culture, identity and colonialism, as referenced by the NGV website. On Brook Andrew’s WordPress Site, the artist specifically mentions his ‘Australian indigenous / Scottish’ heritage that may feature a connection towards the artist’s work. 

According to Andrew’s WordPress Page, ‘Vox Tasmania’ features a range of books, photographs, images and artefacts that reflect the treatment of the indigenous community in Australia during the 19th century.

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Human Skeleton within Vox Tasmania – Brook Andrew

In reference to the NGV, Andrew’s work is based upon the research and documentation conducted by Richard Berry; an autonomist who collected indigenous remains from Tasmania in order to thoroughly analyse this particular race. The skulls were often used as possessions or trophies and the remains were used for other ‘scientific purposes.’

The installation also features a large, intricate gramophone that is placed next to the wunderkammer; according to Andrew, the gramophone amplifies the way these indigenous remains were perceived or valued back in the 1990’s. As I peered through the gramophone, I recognised a human skull enclosed within a glass container and the installation does provide a very interesting perspective.

From a personal perspective, the gramophone does create distance between the viewer and the skull; it was as if I was viewing the installation from the other side of the gallery space. Once I continued to walk around the installation, I suddenly realised how close I was standing to the wunderkammer. The work itself creates an illusion, to me the installation did create quite a surreal experience.

As I began to walk around the installation, I immediately discovered an entire human skeleton carefully and delicately rearranged within the container. This is definitely my favourite section and I couldn’t take my eyes off the skeleton, I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to a real human skull before, well I haven’t actually seen one in the flesh before.

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Photograph Two – Human Skeleton in the Wunderkammer

The human skull reflects a moment in time, a moment in history that is almost impossible to forget. The installation has invited me to question whom the remains to belong to and the actual cause of death, the mistreatment towards the indigenous population stares the viewer right in the face!

The installation was confronting and the skull initiates ideas relating to death or mortality and I began to wonder what happens to our remains once we die? Would our bones last forever or would they eventually disintegrate?

The work itself does provide quite a confronting experience, although I was intrigued by the overall subject matter. While I couldn’t take my eyes off the skeleton I was also quite disturbed by these historical moments and the way these remains were treated.

The installation also features a range of books, images and photographs that also coincides with the human skeleton. It’s interesting to see how these different elements connect to each other in some way. As I continued to walk around the wunderkammer, I began to recognise the minor details that I failed to recognise at the very beginning, it was as if I was searching for the missing pieces for a jigsaw puzzle.

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Artefacts, Images and records within the installation 

Overall the Melbourne Now exhibition at the NGV was definitely worth the visit and the works on display were displayed in a unique, creative manner. Andrew’s ‘Vox Tasmania’ explores an intriguing yet confronting subject through a range of images, photos and historical artefacts including a real human skeleton!

The way the works were displayed was fascinating; although I was shocked to discover the way these remains were used for research or private collections. If you haven’t see Andrew’s work before I would definitely recommend visiting the artist’s WordPress page or the NGV website.

Photographs taken by Black Calavera – Charlotte Pridding

References

Melbourne Now: 22 Nov – 23 March 2014, “About the Exhibition,” National Gallery of Victoria, 2013, last modified 17/7/14, http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/melbournenow/about-melbourne-now

Melbourne Now: 22 Nov – 23 March 2014, “Meet the Artists: Brook Andrew,” last modified
17/7/14, National Gallery of Victoria 2013,
http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/melbournenow/artists/andrew

Melbourne Now: 22 Nov – 23 March 2014, Wall Text – Brook Andrew: Vox Tasmania, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

Brook Andrew, “Planet Art: The Best Art from Around the World, June 2013, WordPress, last modified 17/7/14, https://brookandrew.wordpress.com/page/2/

Brook Andrew, “Researcher Profile,” Monash University 2014, http://www.monash.edu.au/research/people/profiles/profile.html?sid=51592&pid=4536


Skullavera showcases unique ceramic skulls at Melbourne’s Day of the Dead Festival

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All the skulls in the photographs are produced by Skullavera

Last Saturday, I attended a Day of the Dead Celebration in Melbourne that featured a range of hand crafted skulls, printed t-shirts, altars, traditional Aztec dancing, Mexican street food and face painting! The event was located at the Trust Bar and Restaurant in Flinders street that was full of visitors with their faces painted as the Mexican sugar skulls, it was fascinating as there were so many different patterns and designs!

It was interesting to see how each person had interpreted the Mexican sugar skulls, some had used colourful face paint while others had decided to go with a  minimalist approach. Furthermore, I did find the event particularly fascinating as I have never been to a Day of the Dead festival in Melbourne and the event was quite different to what I was expecting! At first the venue was rather crowded, although I throughly enjoyed watching visitors passing by with their sugar skull face paint!

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As I was walking through the venue, there was one stall that had captured my attention. There were a range of colourful and illustrative skulls that were displayed onto a wooden surface along with a selection of skeletal figurines including Frida Kahlo and Marlyin Monroe. These hand crafted skulls featured elaborate and decorative designs that are quite unique compared to the other ceramic skulls that I have seen throughout the city of Melbourne.

These incredible hand crafted skulls are produced by a company known as Skullavera that is currently based in Sydney, Australia. BME Melbourne have conducted an interview with the artist who explains that the skulls are inspired by Chicano / latino tattoo designs as well as “the Mexican Drug Cartels.” 1 Each skull features a completely different style, there were so many different patterns, designs and illustrations, in fact the stall at the Day of the Dead celebration was definitely vibrant and decorative.

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In a way, the artist applies a unique and distinctive style to the ceramic skulls, the level of detail and craftsmanship is incredible! The illustrations provides each skull with a unique characteristic, these models appear to have an individual personality, a personal style!

While there were bright and colourful designs available, there were other skulls that featured a range of black and while illustrations, the stall at the Day of the Dead Celebration in Melbourne featured some extraordinary ceramic skulls in all different shapes and sizes, I was seriously tempted to buy one for myself!

The official Skullavera blog does mention that the hand crafted skulls are inspired by the Day of the Dead celebration; from a personal perspective the ceramic skulls do feature both Mexican and European influences, there are various designs that do remind me of Western popular culture. 2 The way the skulls were displayed do feature similarities to a traditional Mexican altar that is usually installed during the Day of the Dead in order to welcome spirits to the celebration, as referenced by Maria Herrera Sobek. 3

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In fact the display in general was creative and inspiring, it was seriously hard to walk past the stall without taking a dozen photos, I was in awe for at least 30 minutes, I just could not take my eyes off these hand crafted skulls! I f you haven’t seen Skullavera’s work, then I would strongly suggest to visit the Facebook page or the blog, there is some incredible work displayed online.

For those who have never even heard of this Day of the Dead Celebration in Melbourne, I would recommend buying a ticket for next year! As if you can go wrong with beer, tequila, nachos and ceramic skulls all in the same venue? While the event itself was crowded to begin with, the works on display were definitely worth seeing!

1. BME Melbourne, “Skullavera Interview”, June 28th 2013, http://www.bmemelbourne.com/bmeinterviews/skullavera-interview/ (accessed 5/11/13)
2.  Skullavera Official Blog, http://skullavera.blogspot.com.au/ (accessed 5/11/13)
3. Sobek, Maria Herrera (ed) “Altars” in Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions, Volume 1 (California: ABC – CLIO, 2012) http://books.google.com.au/books?id=bDIwZ8BieWcC&pg=PA423&dq=traditional+mexican+altars+
celebration+latino+folklore&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6hR6UpbuJMO2kgWqh
4GwCg&ved=0CDA
Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=traditional%20mexican%20altars%20
celebration%20latino%
20folklore&f=false

Other References:

https://www.facebook.com/Skullavera73

http://skullavera.bigcartel.com/

http://www.dotdfestival.com.au/


Señorita

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8/1/13 – Day of the Dead Figurine from Gasoline Queen in Richmond

Photography by Charlotte Pridding

For christmas I had bought my parents a Day of the Dead figurine from a small boutique store in Richmond also known as Gasoline Queen. I was walking down bridge street a few weeks ago and the small paper mache skulls in the front window had captured my attention; I decided to walk into the store and I was suddenly surrounded by Hawaiian shirts, rock and roll outfits and Day of the Dead skeletal figurines.

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As soon as I recognised the colourful figurine on the top shelf, I immediately placed the skeleton onto the front counter. The skeleton does feature similar characteristics to the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, especially the green, red and white dress.The skeletal figures that are associated with the Day of the Dead, are usually dressed in a range of different outfits; In “Day of the Dead in the USA” Regina. M. Marchi explains that the figurines are designed to mimic the living.

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These caricatures provide quite an amusing and satirical approach to death; the figurine I had decided to buy does feature lively facial expressions, I honestly don’t think it’s meant to be taken seriously. For me it is quite difficult to associate this colourful figurine with morbid or grotesque representations of death.

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The lady within the store had said that the figurine on the top shelf is also known as “señorita”, a Spanish term that is used before a woman’s first name or surname. I just could not walk out of the store without buying miss señorita. So I was incredibly bored one afternoon so I decided to take some photographs of the figurine that was placed on the television cabinet opposite the cookbooks.

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Make sure to visit Gasoline Queen if you are in Melbourne, the Day of the Dead merchandise is just incredible! Or visit their Facebook Page, please click on the link below for further information.

http://www.facebook.com/gasolinequeen

Marchi, Regina.M. The Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenan.  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009


Trip to Healseville Sanctuary

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5/1/2013 – Animal Skulls at Healseville Sanctuary

Last week, I had visited the sanctuary during my trip to Healesville, a small country town in Victoria, Australia. Healesville is about an hour and a half from the city centre of Melbourne, if you are looking for trip out in the Yarra Ranges, I would recommend visiting the sanctuary. The facility features a diverse range of native, Australian wildlife and the sanctuary does preserve endangered species. The sanctuary was fairly large and it did take at least two hours to visit each section, although I did enjoy every moment of it!

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Interactive Screen: The Comparisons between a Koala Skull and a Human Skull.

I did notice that there were a range of animal skulls that were displayed around the sanctuary; it was interesting to see of the different shapes and sizes. I also visited the rescue centre that also featured information about various surgical procedures and preservation. While the facilities were contained within a glass window, I did manage to recognise more animal skulls that were stored upon the bookshelf.

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Comparisons between a Python Skull and a Human Skull

Within the corner of the room, there was a small screen that compared an animal skull with a human skull. It was an interactive screen that allowed each viewer to compare the human skulls with the skull of a koala or the skull of a snake. It did find the facts very interesting, but for some reason I did not write them down! Next time I visit the sanctuary, I shall write the information on a piece of paper so I can remember what they are.

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Kookaburra Skull and a Human Skull

It was quite random, although it was rather interesting to how complex the human skull really is. While most animals do have skulls in order to preserve the most precious organs, the human skulls appears quite structured. It’s just interesting to see how different we are from other animals / species. Please stay updated, I will eventually post further research about the human skull! I think I need to take another trip to the library to borrow some more books.

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Possum Skull and a Human Skull

For further information about the Sanctuary, please click on the link below. The Sanctuary is also apart of the Melbourne’s Zoo, it is just great to see a facility protecting native wildlife! The area does have quite a lot of space and it’s not like any other zoo I have ever seen before, the animals have the space to actually move around. The location is also worth a visit, it’s actually a relaxing place to spend a sunny afternoon!

http://www.zoo.org.au/healesville