Human and Animal Ink

Having previously looked at dermatological disease, Mark Twain, and also influenced by this exquisite work from Kim Joon, we’ve become very interested in skin.

The imagery from Joon that you see below is from an exhibition called Tattoo and Taboo, which isn’t altogether related to what we’re doing with The Sneezing Pandas Project, but the idea of controversy and a desire to stand out very much is.

The sense of *mutual* desire to see and be seen.

A skin is physical or metaphorical.

Viral Pandas | The Sneezing Pandas Project | Kim Joon

From ‘Tattoo and Taboo’, by Kim Joon

Joon has focused on the human body for his tattoo-based art projects, but we also discovered a Belgian artist who tattoos pigs.

Is this exquisite, and taboo?

Viral Pandas | The Sneezing Pandas Project | Wim Delvoye

Art Farm, by Wim Delvoye

Viral Pandas | The Sneezing Pandas Project | Wim Delvoye

Artist, Wim Delvoye, at work

Online breeding grounds for creative visuals, like Pinterest for example, have a strong ‘ink community’ – that is, lovers of tattoos. Delvoye extends this circle to include animal ink. Since the pigs we see here have no opportunity to object or give consent, you have to wonder whether the audience is encouraged to the pig, the craft, or for the artist himself, and why.

In human subjects, these self-made marks on the skin are interesting to us because they are blemishes on a clear-skinned perfection so many people aspire to; be that the physical or the metaphorical skin – a covering; protection, or display. The inked narrative and the meaning of individual tattoos is far more complex than we can go in to here, but the online community that follows and shares this craft is ‘anti’ or ‘other’ to the usual rules.

In effect, they turn this process on its head.

Upside down.

So where are the barriers we cross in what we want to see and what we do not?

What goes viral and what is suffocated?

We’ll continue to use our talking heads to explore such desire. Katherine talks a little here about where The Sneezing Pandas Project is going next.

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Paper Over the Cracks

We’ve been covering our clay heads in paper ready for the next artistic exploration. Covering up the cracks on the He/She Head as we went along the process became really satisfying. Just as the original head was neotenised to represent what is often more attractive to people, we papered over imperfections that often lead to less interest.

Cracks

Cracks

This very basic level of satisfaction that came from something as simple as covering over the dark areas of clay still showing on our domesticated head could be a physical representation of our lives online: papering over the cracks, escaping reality, and projecting something the way in which we want it to be seen.

Purifying. Perfecting. Beautifying?

Sculpting our own ideals.

Do we then take more pleasure from it?

Covered

Covered

With music playing in the background, along came what seemed like an optimal time to video the process. It is in no way meant to have a professional finish or represent anything in particular, it simply documents art in progress and for us a turn in direction with the project, having become quite fond of our talking heads.

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I Hate Thigh Knockers

HumaneSpot.org circulated an article last week called Should You Share This Video?, written by Caryn Ginsberg. It questions whether humour is an effective transmitter for more serious animal causes like neutering and focuses on a viral video campaign featuring actress Katherine Heigl.

The question posed by Ginsberg is timely for our project and its conclusion is that this kind of video, which we’ll show you in a minute if you haven’t yet seen it, is not effective:

“Save the Katherine Heigl video for the folks that you know will enjoy the laugh … and have already had their animals spayed or neutered.”

Caryn Ginsberg, 2012

I Hate Balls video clip

The I Hate Balls video went viral and sparked off many debates in the Funny or Die and YouTube comments. We’re not so interested here in what they’re saying, more in what they’re not saying and also how they say it. Comments are vicious and rarely about neutering.

Are these thoughts from behind the computer screen a valid reflection of real life?

Are these the same words that would be spoken offline?

How does this discharge of candid emotion affect the animal subjects?

We see from viewing figures that humour is an effective tool to encourage sharing, but like the WWF Sneezing Baby Panda video the I Hate Balls campaign doesn’t seem to have spread a serious message. We’ve seen little evidence from the video viewers that they’re talking about neutering and most are more concerned with other arguments around feminism and ball bashing.

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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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