Fragments Pushed Forth, Fractures Swept Along

Doris Salcedo, Colombian sculptor and conceptual artist
Doris Salcedo, Colombian artist

Aesthetica, the magazine and its website, is one of my favorite go-to places for contemporary art. Here’s a piece about Doris Salcedo sliding a crack along the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, Baptiste Debombourg’s sending a gallery wall cracking and tumbling toward us, and more ado about fragments and fragmenting.

Visual Inspiration: Art as Fragments (brief Aesthetica article)

Doris Salcedo’s 2007 installation and intervention piece actually fractured the floor of the Turbine Hall with a crevice of various widths and depths that had chain-link wires embedded in it. She called it Shibboleth.

In the Bible, in the Book of Judges, there’s a passage about a battle between two Semitic tribes, the Ephraimites and the Gileadites. When the Ephraimites tried to escape, denying that they, in fact, belonged to their tribe, the Gileadites put them to a test of saying the word shibboleth. The Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce the initial sh sound (they turned it into an s) and were thus exposed.

As a noun, a shibboleth came to mean a custom, such as a way of speaking, belief, or a tradition which distinguishes a group of people. It’s a marker used to both include and exclude, to differentiate between an in-group and out-group. According to her own statements, Doris Salcedo uses the notion of shibboleth in a vein close to its biblical context, as a signifier that rather than evoking benignly group differences points instead at discriminatory practices and also violence against members of out-groups, with particular reference to immigrants who come to Europe from the so-called “third-world” countries. The work is then meant to reflect both pressure and division, Salcedo says. But there is so much suggestion of struggle, too, in the work, and of calling into question, as Salcedo suggests, the direction of our gaze—toward those who struggle, toward those fallen into the cracks, toward those who push from the crevices to free themselves only to find themselves, in many cases, in circumstances which hold them in like those bits of chain-link fence incorporated into the interior sculptural walls of the installation.

Here’s more about this piece from Tate Modern and from the Khan Academy.

And here’s a photo:

Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth, Tate Modern, 2007

(Photo by Nmnogueira at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Surrealist Interventions: The Art of Marcus Møller Bitsch

Giraffe and Hot Air Balloon, by the Indonesian photographer Syaibatul Hamdi

But this post won’t be about Hamdi. I chose this image because it was freely shared on Pixabay and it shows some of the thought processes behind Marcus Møller Bitsch’s work, the Danish photographer featured recently on the website of Aesthetica Magazine.

Unlike most Surrealist artists, Marcus MB, as he likes to be called, doesn’t use digital manipulation if he can help it, and instead creates his version of Surrealism using simple props, such as a photograph of a blue cloudy sky cracked open in the middle to reveal a night sky with small sparkly stars. Or a photograph of the sea which he tears in places in order to place in the indents what could possibly be rather small rocks—which then end up looking like large outcrops in the middle of the sea.

Here’s a selection of his photos on Aesthetica Magazine’s website

Developing Photos with Light and Grass

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Artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey create portraits with living, growing grass. They germinate grass seeds, spread them over burlap slathered with water paste, and then manipulate the light they’re getting—they keep the canvases in a darkroom and project at them the light of negative images. The idea is simple enough, but it does make you embrace nature in a grand way, doesn’t it?

Here’s more about it.