Monthly Archives: April 2012

Kate Clark: Human/Animal Heads

Exploring faces, both human and animal, as well as the distinctions between domesticated and wild; attraction and repulsion, we came across this wonderful work from sculptor, Kate Clark.

Sculpture by Kate Clark

Sculpture by Kate Clark

The beauty in her work speaks for itself, so please visit her website for more.

Clark’s artist statement is as below:

“Studying the tension between personal and mythical realms, I create sculpture that synthesizes the human face into the body of wild animals. Initially, these forms can be shocking and repelling as viewers both recognize and reject their presence. The disruptive alignment of the intimate face and animal body asserts that human experience is mostly contained, a mask which is incomprehensible and psychologically complex.

We bring assumptions to any contemplation of the wild. We project unease, a response to what we understand to be primitive, unrestrained, even dangerous.

The tamed face, our face, is a mirror reflecting safety and cultivation. Emotion is caught in the eyes, the mouth, the tilt of the head. A single life, with its private and unique history, gazes back at us.

The visible seams themselves are there to remind the viewer that I’ve undone the exotic and wild to construct portraits which ask you to embrace contradiction. One can seek out themselves in the vulnerability of expression, while confronting a shifting and uncertain relationship: underlying violence beneath a guise of control.”

Kate Clark, Artist Statement

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So, What of our Wild Man?

We’ve been working on the second head in our domestication pocket of the project; our He/She Head complete. The He Head, which could be seen in its neotenised state as a She Head is in need of stark contrast to help us reach further in to our thoughts about beauty and repulsion.

Why is juvenilisation in animals often more attractive to people?

Why are those animals shared, liked and commented on more?

We considered what is the opposite of neotony.

Besides the smaller eyes, the hairy face and the ‘wild’ exterior, we also considered the popular Mark Twain quote that sparked a number of comments, and the ideas we have already explored around parasites, dermatological diseases and other physical marks on a face that make it less appealing to others, both on and offline.

Our wild man is taking shape:

Wild Man 1

Wild Man 1

Wild Man 2

Wild Man 2

Wild Man 3

Wild Man 3

How do you feel about him?

As we begin to grimace by the wild man’s appearance, Katherine explains more about the process of creating him and the thought process behind her work:

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Still Creepy

The wolf image we blogged about in Look and Listen reminded Katherine, as a sculptor, of Point Cloud. This is a technical process using a laser to pinpoint areas on a subject that can then be used to create a 3D model of it. Like the wolf, it traps the subject within the laser image, which can then become a clay model or something else physical. In a way, the distance that sits between these two forms of the same object or being, separating them, creates an area of non-existence.

Two interesting findings have come out of ideas around Point Cloud and trappings:

1. King Kong

The third King Kong film used CGI to recreate the famous gorilla and extra scenes on the DVD revealed how this is done using a real person as the basis for his actions. Here’s a clip of some facial expressions showing the actor and the projected image of King Kong. In the same way we all represent a version of ourselves online, characters are created to digitally portray a version of a truth.

These characters are released in to the digital wild to live their own lives.

2. Changing faces

Thanks to a Viral Pandas submission we’ve been looking at the Uncanny Valley and found it very relevant to the Sneezing Pandas Project. It involves us being able to detect when something that looks very real is actually not real, but robotic. We also feel it applies well to a cyborg persona – that is, who we project ourselves to be online, what we share and the comments we write.

Are we empty beings in the cyborg world and merely a reflection of a human form?

Do we project this on to the animals we watch?

We found this video, which demonstrates how close we are getting to changing faces with technology. Regardless of how good or bad this effect is…

It’s still creepy.

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Howl: Look and Listen

We recently saw a wolf drawing that is really intriguing. It was posted on Pinterest by Visual Graphic, but drawn by Paul Wischnewskl and posted to his Behance profile. It’s interesting in relation to Viral Pandas in two ways: first, because of the way the image has spread around the Internet, and secondly because we’ve been formulating ideas around animals in the ether – a place where they are almost frozen; framed within a digital window.

Here, it appears that the wolf is trapped in this drawing with pen points pulling at every muscle – pulling at every corner of skin around the jaw and behind the ears.

The wolf will always appear this way and time will change nothing.

Is this wolf unable to howl?

It’s a beautiful image, full of tension, which of course is something we focused on in our influences for The Sneezing Pandas Project.

'Wolf. Size A3.' by Paul Wischnewski

‘Wolf. Size A3.’ by Paul Wischnewski

This image is perfectly matched with The Wolf, a favourite song of Natalie‘s by Eddie Vedder. It needs no words. The song emanates tension and intensity; trappings. It comes from the film, Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn, which covers this very subject. We highly recommend it.

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Digging in the Dirt

Thanks Nicola for sending in the Digging in the Dirt video from Peter Gabriel in response to the Mark Twain blog – the video fits the subject matter perfectly and we’re pleased to have a musical contribution.

Enjoy!

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A Disagreeable Condition

We’ve been considering the romanticised view of nature that is often portrayed online – dramatic skylines, beaming sunsets, perfectly sculpted silhouettes, and animals as well as humans placed majestically in the centre, airbrushed and beautified. Worms, bugs, and mites do not seem to exist often in this cyborg world; rarely acknowledged, spoken of, shared or liked.

We appreciate beauty, we understand.

But still, we were quite taken with this eloquent quote from Mark Twain’s ‘Letters from the Earth’; a poetic, beautifully written description of the very thing that usually makes us squirm.

Perhaps it still does, just a little, but we’ve taken it as inspiration for the opposite of our domesticated head – the ‘Wild Man’ (coming soon!).

Mark Twain

“Noah and his family were saved — if that could be called an advantage. I throw in the if for the reason that there has never been an intelligent person of the age of sixty who would consent to live his life over again. His or anyone else’s. The Family were saved, yes, but they were not comfortable, for they were full of microbes. Full to the eyebrows; fat with them, obese with them, distended like balloons. It was a disagreeable condition, but it could not be helped, because enough microbes had to be saved to supply the future races of men with desolating diseases, and there were but eight persons on board to serve as hotels for them. The microbes were by far the most important part of the Ark’s cargo, and the part the Creator was most anxious about and most infatuated with. They had to have good nourishment and pleasant accommodations. There were typhoid germs, and cholera germs, and hydrophobia germs, and lockjaw germs, and consumption germs, and black-plague germs, and some hundreds of other aristocrats, specially precious creations, golden bearers of God’s love to man, blessed gifts of the infatuated Father to his children — all of which had to be sumptuously housed and richly entertained; these were located in the choicest places the interiors of the Family could furnish: in the lungs, in the heart, in the brain, in the kidneys, in the blood, in the guts. In the guts particularly. The great intestine was the favorite resort. There they gathered, by countless billions, and worked, and fed, and squirmed, and sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving; and at night when it was quiet you could hear the soft murmur of it. The large intestine was in effect their heaven. They stuffed it solid; they made it as rigid as a coil of gaspipe. They took pride in this.

Their principal hymn made gratified reference to it:

Constipation, O Constipation,
The Joyful sound proclaim
Till man’s remotest entrail
Shall praise its Maker’s name”

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Comment: Cows Belong in Fields

Thanks Nicola for a fantastic comment on our WWF post. She posts the recent Compassion in World Farming video, Cows Belong in Fields, and looks at the comments. Great find!

Nicola’s comment

Looks like Compassion in World Farming was more successful than the attempt by WWF to go viral for animals… almost a million views of their dancing cow video to show how “happy” cows are when outside…

And they’ve got lots of media coverage too…

La Republica
Huffington Post
MSNBC
Right This Minute

Comments interesting…

“Ahhh! I don’t want to eat cow anymore! They’re adorable!!”

directly underneath this comment:

“They look so delicious”

But I guess the video at least gets people thinking / talking about their relationship with cows… one way or the other…

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Communication Confines

Katherine and Natalie discuss where the project is heading. We’ve been looking at neoteny (juvenilisation) and are using two portrait heads to examine domestication. Katherine has now successfully domesticated, or neotenised, one of these in to the He/She Head.

Now, how about we start a conversation?

If one of our figures is ‘wild’ and one is domesticated, what would they say to one another?

How do the issues we’ve been discussing relate to one another?

Attractive vs Repulsive | Online vs Offline | Cyborg vs Human | Robot vs Real

Do we idolise the perfect, robotic, manipulated ‘reality’ of one world, but prefer the flawed, human, down to earth reality in everyday life?

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The He/She Head

The result of the domestication of a clay head is altogether removed from the starting point:

Viral Pandas | Clay Head | Domestication Studies    Viral Pandas | Clay Head | Domestication Studies

You’ll see that in relation to our neoteny studies, the eyes are larger, the skin smooth and hair free, the forehead larger and the nose smaller.

Is it just me, or is the domesticated head more appealing?

Are you drawn to look more at this one?

To look for longer?

Does it look more female to you?

Katherine explains more about the proportions of the domesticated head and, as she was working on it, the influence of the Uncanny Valley submission on making things look hyper real. In the digital world it seems the more neotenous and the more familiar (domesticated) an animal is; the more popular.

You can watch the morphing of the original head in to the domesticated head in this video:

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Domestication of a Clay Head

The Covenant of the Wild by Stephen Budiansky is a book both Katherine and Natalie have read and enjoyed. It leads us to Viral Pandas ideas around domestication and appeal.

What draws us to certain animals over others?

What is it that attracts us most?

Budiansky describes the climatic and environmental changes that set the stage for domestication. He provides evidence that domestication, like the development of agriculture, was a gradual process and not a revolutionary idea. He also describes the mechanisms by which domestication may have taken place, centering on the phenomenon of neoteny (or juvenilisation). This is a characteristic of domesticated animals where juvenile traits, like docility, are sustained in to the adult life of the animal [Source].

Physical features play a part in juvenilisation and pugs are a classic example – incredibly popular for their large, wide eyes; small size, and look of vulnerability, they can often inspire mothering instincts from human owners. In the same way, human adult features like a small nose and jaw, a hairless body and face, larger eyes, and a flattened, broader face are all considered neotenous, inspiring the same instincts.

We decided it might be interesting to domesticate a clay head.

Because Katherine‘s teaching methods are demonstration based, she often has unfinished portrait heads in her studio, and so she sets to work with this one, shown here in its original form.

Viral Pandas | Clay Head | Domestication Studies

There are two of these heads, which will be used, as part of The Sneezing Pandas Project to explore domestication and wild; perhaps attraction and repulsion at the same time.

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