Tag Archives: Melbourne

Self Portraits become distressed and decayed

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Last Friday, I uploaded some self-portraits that I’ve taken in one of Melbourne’s deserted laneways, today I thought I would share some of the photographs that I have destroyed. I’ve undertaken a project / experiment where I’ve ripped or destroyed my own self-portraits using water and cello tape in order to determine whether these alterations increase my connection to death.

The modifications definitely provide a distressed, sinister appearance and I can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve destroyed the image of myself in order to create a different effect.I have often placed the smooth image opposite the decayed version in order to observe the process or the progression, this experiment often reminds me of a body slowly decaying into a corpse, which is something I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts and this is one particular thought that will continually reoccur when I view these images.

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The scariest thought is the realisation that  I’ll start to decay or deteriorate once I’m dead and I’ve discovered that there is a similar parallel with the images that I’ve destroyed. At first, the photograph features a smooth, polished surface until it’s destroyed into something imperfect, flawed or decayed.

This is a really challenging task for me, as I will spend a long period of time preparing the make up for the photo shoot, installing the equipment and taking the photographs of myself. I often whether death is meant to feature a smooth, flawless or polished appearance? To me personally, I am able to establish a closer association to the concept of death through my distressed images, all the imperfections elevate the context of the work, the process from life to death isn’t a perfect experience.

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The images remind me of my car accident back in 2010, where I sandwiched between two other cars, I was lucky to be alive actually. While I crumple the image in-between my hands, I continually remember the car crumpling into a square box, this was a very close encounter to death and I actually thought I would die in a matter of seconds. Destroying the images has become a reminder of my experience and the overall process has allowed me to face this memory instead of trying to forget everything all together.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with my initial photographs although I do enjoy observing the smooth or polished surface of the image progressively transforming into an element of decay or deterioration. When I’ve crumpled the image, the texture provides a very interesting effect to the overall portrait and I’ve also rubbed the paper together in order to transfer the ink to another area of the photo, this technique also creates some very intriguing results.

There was one stage, where I experienced a printing error and the default created some very interesting filters with one of my photographs. Instead of throwing the photograph away, I wondered if I could use the image somehow. I crumpled the photograph and the texture complimented the colours, I don’t normally work with colour, although I thought this would be an interesting experimentation.

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While I have established a closer connection to death through the reduction of colour, the filters as well as the uneven textures do present a level of decay or destruction. There are certain scenarios, where accidents or defaults can work in your favour, it’s interesting to utilise these mistakes and transform them into something interesting.

There is another distressed photograph that produced some very interesting colours featuring blue and orange and I purposely set the white balance incorrectly in order to determine whether the adjusted settings would create a different effect. These experimentations do create some very interesting styles that are worth exploring further or later down the track. I often reuse the same image in order to determine what I can create something interesting all together, there is just so much to explore, stay tuned!

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Photographic Self-Portraits: Death and the Photographic Image II

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In one of my previous posts, I uploaded some self-portraits / test shots that I’ve taken in a deserted laneway in North Melbourne. I painted a skull onto my face with some black and white makeup along with the Kryolan Supracolors and I visited same location for my scheduled photo shoot. I decided to assign myself with a challenge and I began to take the photographs of myself around 9pm at night, the lamp posts provided some additional lighting that successfully illuminated the dark laneway behind me.

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About a couple of weeks ago, I briefly mentioned Susan Sontag’s theories in regards death and the photographic image. Sontag explains that a photograph has the potential to capture a “person’s mortality” and these explanations have invited me to consider my own interpretations of death.1 When I am standing still in front of the camera, I become completely motionless and the experience reminded me of death, I am confronted with the idea that the living body will eventually turn into a lifeless corpse and I have wondered whether death or the end of life results in darkness or complete silence. Sometimes I’ll view the images and I can’t even recognise myself, I’ve become something entirely different, the images have become a deathly version of myself, a persona or an alter ego.

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The lamp-post created some very interesting colour combinations including blue, yellow, green and even orange, although I decided to change the images to black and white in order to establish my connection or association with death. A couple of years ago, I realised that the reduction of colour enhanced my association to death and my thoughts / opinions haven’t changed significantly during this particular time, this is quite an interesting discovery!

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There was on particular moment during the shoot when the wind lifted my black cloak that successfully produced some very interesting photographs. When I viewed the images on-screen, I discovered at least five self-portraits that appear fairly similar to one another and they do work well as a series ,this would be another interesting idea for a stop motion animation. These images would work well as a story documenting the process of death, this is another concept I intend to explore further.

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The graffiti in the background does provide a very interesting element and I intend to expand upon this project; using some other venues or locations across the city would be perfect! This is just the start anyway, I’m hoping to deconstruct or destroy these photographs in order to elicit the notion of death and decay. I hope you enjoy the photographs, stay tuned!

References

1.Susan Sontag. On Photography (USA: Penguin Group 1977), 15

http://kryolan.com.au/products/supracolor


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


Mike Makatron: The McDeath Burger on Smith Street, Fitzroy

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Last week, I decided to walk through Smith Street in Melbourne Fitzroy, where I discovered a piece of graffiti on the side of the wall. I immediately stopped at the side of the road and continued to stare at this vibrant and creative design.

The image features a skull along with an Australian flag, cigarette butts, piano keys, USB cables and a range of dollar notes that are enclosed within a burger bun. These items are combined with lettuce, tomato and mustard, all the elements you would normally find in a traditional beef burger.

The use of colour, shape and composition is striking, especially if you’re standing on the opposite side of the road. I was on my way to buy ice cream, however I decided to cross the road to take a closer look at the graffiti. The skull appears quite pixelated up close and the graffiti directs your gaze towards the very top of the building. From a distance the dots almost blend together to create a tonal effect, this also creates a unique perspective!

The detail is incredible and the design is quite different to anything I have seen before. I then began to wonder who designed this piece of graffiti and I suddenly recognised the artist’s tag / signature right next to the skull.

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Mike Maka aka Makatron is a local artist from Melbourne who specialises in graffiti, street art and illustration that often explores the relationship between mankind, technology and the natural world. This design in particular has questioned whether these consumable items affect our environment or our natural surroundings.

One could argue that the work reflects consumerism and mass production within contemporary western society, however the skull presents the notion of death, decay and decomposition. This creates a very innovative composition; each element appears to feature some kind of meaning or representation. I was intrigued with the connection between nature, death and commercialism; as a result I decided to search for additional information in regards to Makatron’s work.

According to Makatron’s Facebook page the design is also known as the McDeath Burger. This title definitely provides context towards the overall work, these commercial products could potentially cause death or fatality later down the track. The design directs the viewer’s attention towards each individual element and it quite difficult to focus on one specific area.

I decided to take some photographs of Makatron’s McDeath Burger and I began to search through the images on my computer. After a couple of weeks, I recognised an aboriginal flag at the very top of the burger and I cannot believe that I haven’t noticed this before. I began to question whether the flag would have any connection or association with the overall image.

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There is limited information in regards to the McDeath Burger, however the flag may represent the way the indigenous culture is used as a commercial attraction. I begin to search for all the possible meanings or explanations behind the work and this is what I enjoy the most, the McDeath burger definitely invites the viewer to consider how these material products may potentially affect the world around us.

The design bursts with colour and Makatron’s street art definitely adds vibrancy to Melbourne’s inner CBD. This is what I love about Melbourne, you can find the most extraordinary designs or creations with an abandoned alley way or the side of the street; once you go exploring, it’s surprising what you’ll actually find.

I would definitely recommend taking a walk down Smith Street to see Makatron’s design; if you live too far away, check out the artist’s website / portfolio, as there are some great designs on display!

References

http://www.makatron.com/biopropaganda/

https://www.facebook.com/MikeMakatronArt

http://mike-maka.tumblr.com/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikemaka/page1/


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


Interesting Skull Illustration in Melbourne

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Illustration I discovered in Melbourne – Artist Unknown

While I was walking through Melbourne, I have discovered quite an interesting illustration that has been posted onto the back of a road sign. Most of the alley ways in Melbourne do contain graffiti and some other quirky illustrations; there some incredible designs especially in Hosier Lane! This illustration in particular features a skull, while the design itself is rather simple, the skull does feature some interesting characteristics.

I’m not too sure who has created this illustration, although I was definitely intrigued by this particular image, I decided to take a quick snap shot on my to the train station. So I have noticed something very interesting, I have suddenly decided that Melbourne is saturated with skulls! Every time I visit the city I cannot help recognising all the skull t-shirts, illustrations, graffiti art, coffee mugs, paintings, books, pencil cases and yes the list will just keep going and going!

Every time I walk down an alley way, I notice skulls imprinted onto the wall, they are just everywhere. Why is that? why are we all so fascinated with the skull? It’s who we are, under the layer of skin is a human skull and all of these images may encourage us to realise that death is an inevitable thing.

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Illustration – Artist Unknown

Well that’s not all to say that every person in this world is attracted to skulls, of course popular culture is completely saturated with the image of the skull that may emphasise our fascination with something that we all fear the most, the idea that we will never live forever, the idea that we can die at any given moment, as referenced by Elizabeth Klaver’s publication ‘ Sites of Autopsy in Contemporary Culture’1

Ok so I don’t want to go too deep, I was purely fascinated by this one particular illustration that I stumbled upon in the city. The image is quite minimal and there are some humorous features / attributes, to be honest the design would make a fantastic t-shirt design! Why it has been attached to the back of a road sign, I’m not entirely sure, although I do enjoy finding all these quirky patterns and designs around Melbourne. Stay tuned as I will try to find some information about the artist who has produced this image!

1. Klaver, Elizabeth. Sites of Autospy in Contemporary Culture.  New York: State University of New York 2005.


Entry into the 2013 Kodak Salon

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Photograph by Charlotte Pridding, 2013

This year, I submitted one of my photographs into the Kodak Salon, a photographic competition that is exhibited at the Centre of Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, Fitzory. The Kodak Salon encourages a range of photographers to submit their own work into this annual competition, the photographic prints are exhibited at the CCP gallery for at least three to four weeks.1

The Kodak Salon is based in Australia and there are twenty different awards across various disciplines. According to the official CCP website, the Kodak Salon is inspired by a particular style used in Paris during the 1800’s, many galleries and exhibitions in France would display the artworks across the wall from top to bottom.2

There were some amazing photographs on display and there were a few artists that have incorporated the skull into their own work. I decided to submit a print I had produced at the very start of this year, the title of the work ‘reassurance’ features a photograph of myself at the beach with a skull painted onto my face.

The photo was inspired by my Honours research project that explored the growing interest in the skull within Melbourne’s urban / street culture. I started to develop an interest for the Mexican sugar skulls that I discovered in many bars, restaurants, shops and galleries across Melbourne. These colourful and decorative ornaments inspired me to create a series of black and white self portraits that depict my own personal perspectives of the Mexican sugar skulls that are commonly associated with the Day of the Dead Festival.

Once I completed my degree, I continued taking photographs of myself in various locations in order to discover my own interpretations of death and the depiction of the skull in the contemporary visual culture. I’m still searching for a specific answer, which has been rather difficult as my own personal interpretations do change on a daily basis.

I decided to enter the photograph of myself at the beach that questions what happens after death, what happens when the human body deteriorates? Does everything suddenly turn to darkness or do we move from the living world to a completely different place? It’s really hard to tell as there isn’t one definite answer, how can we define death if we have never experienced it before?

Of course everyone has their own interpretations, I’m hoping these photographs will hopefully provide the answers to all of my questions.  So that pretty much summarises everything at the moment, I’m currently working on another project at the moment that I would love to share to you all once I’ve completed everything, so stay tuned! 🙂

If you would like any further information please click on the links below.

http://www.ccp.org.au/

http://www.ccp.org.au/kodak_salon_faq.php

Other Links

http://blackcalavera.com/

https://skullsproject.wordpress.com/about/


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/


Skull Frenzy in Melbourne CBD!

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Skull Merchandise in Typo

Ok so I know I haven’t posted in a while with moving house and working full-time, life has been pretty hectic at the moment! so where do I begin? well at the very start of the year, I posted a blog post each day and now I am convinced that I should start posting more regularly. I know I haven’t posted for a least a few months, so I began to wonder…..where do i even start?!

So I started to browse through the images I have taken on my mobile phone, I normally take photos with my SLR camera although there are several times where I have found something interesting and I didn’t have all my equipment with me at the time. In Melbourne there is always something new or interesting to find, I remember taking a short cut to the station, at first I was just walking down a dull, dark and grungy alleyway until a recognised an entire wall of graffiti that featured vibrant and intricate designs.

So here I am standing in awe in a deserted alleyway admiring some of the extraordinary and incredible designs that were right in front of me, this is what I enjoy about the city, there’s always something new to discover.

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Ceramic Skulls in Window Display

So I use my phone to take snap shots and then I revisit the same place with the proper equipment including my SLR camera, gee what would we do without mobile phones? Ok so I know my trip to the station is slightly off topic, although I have come to realise that my phone has been used to document graffiti, window displays, billboards, posters and even those random events or festivals that I occasionally walk into on a saturday afternoon.

So as many of you know by now I am particularly fascinated with the skull in popular culture, contemporary art and design, as a matter of fact the skull is everywhere, you could be eating a taco and you’ll see a skeletal figurine next to the hot chilli sauce! So what is the first photograph I find stored in my mobile phone?

I discovered a photo of two ceramic skulls outside a two dollar shop within the middle of a small shopping centre, the entire window display was rather strange there were ceramic skulls placed with crystal ornaments, I wasn’t too sure what was going on.

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The reason why I had taken this photograph is because I was particularly fascinated in the way the skull is commercialised, the skull has become a product, a commoditized item that can be purchased for only a few dollars. It’s quite strange to think that our skull that holds all of our most precious and vital organs has become a mass-produced item. I have often wondered whether all of these skull t-shirts, banners, posters, figurines etc actually remind us of our own humanity or existence?

So do I think of my own mortality when I view an image of the human skull? for me this is a hard question, at times I do start to contemplate upon life and death, then there are times where I feel nothing at all. Personally the context would have a strong impact, a two dollar ceramic skull in a shopping mall would surely generate a completely different interpretation to a skull that is displayed in a film or an exhibition space?

Ok so these cheap ceramic skulls were rather eclectic but I was interested in the random and unusual display, so I decided to take a photograph for future reference.

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Clear It Warehouse / Factory: Dangerfield & Pulp Kitchen Collection – Melbourne, Fitzory 

As I browse through my photographs, I have realised that I do take quite a lot of photos of Typo. Typo is a retro stationery store that often sells a range of popular skull merchandise, in fact every time I walk into Typo I instantly find an entire display of skull notebooks, pencil cases, pens, cups and metallic storage containers. It appears that Typo have used the skull because it’s a popular image, in fact I’m convinced the skull will never loose popularity as this anatomical part of our body is something we can all relate to.

I also remember taking photographs of a retail warehouse in Fitzroy, I remember finding skull printed scarfs, jeans, bandannas, t-shirts, skirts, dresses, even swim suits, in fact the entire warehouse was full of skull printed outfits! Ok so Fitzroy is a fantastic place to find random and spontaneous items, it’s the type of place where you’ll find sofa’s, old bicycles and stacks of milk crates placed on every street corner.

Fitzroy have all sorts of quirky stores and gallery spaces, almost every second window featured a skull, my phone definitely ran out of battery life towards the end of the day!

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Skull Painting in Window Display, Artist Unknown – Melbourne, Fitzroy 

So there we are the skull is everywhere, I suppose I’m continually trying to find new and interesting representations of the skull. It’s actually interesting to think how the symbol of death and mortality has become one of the most popular commercial products within the contemporary visual culture! I can’t walk to the end of the street without recognising at least one person wearing a skull printed scarf, jumper or t-shirt, we just continually purchase these products and never really stop to consider the actual meaning or significance behind the image or the item we’ve just bought!

It’s ironic really, death is still considered as a taboo subject within Western culture, although the majority of products are literally plastered with images of skulls, even baby clothes have skulls on the front! None the less, it’s just a bit of fun just to wear a skull printed t-shirt or a scarf to the supermarket, well everyone else wears the same thing now!

So if you are bored and want to find something interesting to do, take your camera and travel to Melbourne, you’ll be surprised with how many random objects you’ll find 🙂 I know I haven’t posted regularly in a while, now that I have some extra time on my hands I be able to keep on top of things, stay tuned!