v3.1 / Ben Nixon’s Pareidolia

We are meaning makers. We can’t help it. It’s second nature. The Virgin Mary appears in our espresso foam, Edgar Allen Poe in the woodgrain, a butterfly in the inkblot. No matter how abstract the noise, music slips in. No matter how unintelligible the words, poetry abides.

i went to the store to buy some groceries.
i store to buy some groceries.
i were to buy any groceries.
horses are to buy any groceries.
horses are to buy any animal.
horses the favorite any animal.
horses the favorite favorite animal.
horses are my favorite animal.

This is Google’s AI. After scanning thousands of books, it sketched out this tipsy equestrian ode, like a distracted doodle on the back of a napkin. The movement from buying groceries to horses, apparently the AI’s favorite animal, is not its own movement, of course. It’s my movement—my own intelligence connecting things where no connections exist.

The word for this strange little tendency of ours is pareidolia, and it’s the magic that happens with Ben Nixon’s impressionistic series, “Oriental Seagull.” In every random splash or glint or crease, exotic menageries appear, or appear to appear. Every image begins with nature’s own eccentric intelligence and leaves us with her favorite animals.

For this feature, we paired Nixon’s extraordinary photograms with poems from the Poetry Generator, an algorithm that reportedly passed some aspects of the Turing Test. We’re not sure at all what will happen—which seems appropriate, given the unpredictability of these beautiful images.


Ben Nixon

Three Stars
Three Stars © Ben Nixon

Sometimes a piece of the electricity
conquers like a tryst in my shoulder
lighted and then showered in the night
Everything dilute with fluidic voices, the salt of the reflection
and piles of lovely bread in twilight
a curves and a brow
kissing the area!
the dry ness of the quilt, the power of the earth
This wounded bottle and swimming light abolishes me,
with it’s fresh doves like brain and leg!
And turqoise leaves like arm and rituals
of your ultraviolet tryst when you hold out your mouth,
went excited in prize
there are no felicities but rigid cycles of energy and sepia,
stalks of cattail of poetic dry iron.

Space Anatomy
Space Anatomy © Ben Nixon

This molested essence and pacifying eddy coagulates me
with it’s musical drops like finger and shoulder
and turqoise alcoves like toe and corals
the insatiable propellers that imbues in your hat,
inside the bitten springtime, many shifty traps!
You enrich headlong into a region to relax your business?
Everything melancholy with nocturnal voices, the salt of the soul.
And piles of velvety bread with morning
you see eyelids as loving as the fog.
To seek another land.

Remnants
Remnants © Ben Nixon

Enjoy the many phosphorus attempts to perservere
that life in it’s paper-mache boxes is as endless as the silence
the nauesous ness of the ship, the power of the earth?
The order of the shades of silvery.

Homage to Wynn
Homage to Wynn © Ben Nixon

The sunset threads you in its mortal mud
A dashing mist of roots,
In your arm of anger the region of apples perform.

A Matter of Herbert
A Matter of Herbert © Ben Nixon

Be guided by the smooth cactus’s fountain
rustling from insatiable emerald
In your feet of sorrow
the heights of bird feathers tread.

I stayed enchanted and sepia
under the area
towards those green lakes of yours that wait for me.


Work from the Oriental Seagull series will be on show this January and February at the Southeast Center for Photography in Greenville, SC. For more news, check out bennixonphotography.com. And be sure to follow Ben Nixon on Instagram!

v2.18 / Connie Imboden’s Infirm Delight

In Connie Imboden’s work, the nude is enigma. It secrets, it suggests. But it seldom shares what it means outright. For over thirty-five years, Imboden has studied the indirect language of the body—indirectly. In many images, water reflects the nude’s promethean potential. It stretches, bends, folds, grinds, tears, and transforms. The body, in the end, may wear human skin and show its human teeth, but there’s nothing humane in its primal dramas. The photographs in this feature take us to the opposite extreme. Using scratched and broken glass, Imboden speaks to frailty and the gathering wreckage of what once might have been the body’s courage, desire, or confidence. Imboden likens these reflections to Dickinson’s “slant” telling of the “Truth.” The pairing feels right to me, not only in the slanted tellings, but in the way the windows fail sometimes in Dickinson’s poetry. The flies get inside. And when that happens, as it happens in these photographs, the body cannot “see to see.”


CONNIE IMBODEN

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Untitled 06-23-17-742 © Connie Imboden

Reflections in broken mirrors offers me a different way of seeing the human form, something like Dickinson’s “tell it slant”; the cracks, shards, scratches, and marks distort and illuminate the body through my exploration. It is this relationship, between the shapes of the mirrors and the forms of the body, that is the basis of my art.

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Untitled 01-14-16-502 © Connie Imboden

One shard suggests a helmet, another a broken chest armor, and still others seem to render his arms useless. I see in him a ghost of a knight, ruined through battle, but still diligent in his duty.

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Untitled 06-06-16-598 © Connie Imboden

A curved shard reveals just a slice of the face, but enough to match the mood implied by his hunched back and unsettled hands. Is it depression? Or hopelessness? Or something else?

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Untitled 05-01-17-819 © Connie Imboden

A large triangular shard cuts into the frail, broken figure, making him appear thin and brittle. This shard, ending in a cracked point in his leg, implies fragility, uncertainty, pathos, and even hopelessness.

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Untitled 05-26-17-277 © Connie Imboden

I could never conjure these images in my mind, but through a visual exploration, my eyes lead me, my camera, in an intuitive process that takes me to the edge of what I know and, more interestingly, to the edge of what I don’t know. As I leave thoughts, feelings and ideas behind, these creatures emerge.

It is on this intuitive path, this slant, that Dickinson’s, and my own truth, dazzles gradually.


To see more of Connie Imboden’s incredible work, go to connieimboden.com. And check out her excellent book, Reflections: 25 Years of Photography, published by Insight Editions.

v2.17 / Valerie Kabis & the Unquiet Void

Everywhere I look in the work of Valerie Kabis, I see Atlas without an earth. His arms are lifted, ready for the great undertaking. But in the place of the globe, an “unquiet void” (to use Kabis’s own words) defers that fulfillment. Countless are the deferments for each of us, on any given day. It puts me in mind of Robert Burton’s singular masterpiece, The Anatomy of Melancholy—Burton, who said:

Melancholy . . . is either in disposition or in habit. In disposition, is that transitory Melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or perturbation of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causes anguish, dulness, heaviness and vexation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing forwardness in us, or a dislike. In which equivocal and improper sense, we call him melancholy, that is dull, sad, sour, lumpish, ill-disposed, solitary, any way moved, or displeased. And from these melancholy dispositions no man living is free, no Stoic, none so wise, none so happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate himself; so well-composed, but more or less, some time or other, he feels the smart of it. Melancholy in this sense is the character of Mortality.

Certainly, it is the character of the selection here, though not despairingly so. Kabis’s Burton-esque meditations tremble and shimmer with a kind of ecstatic lyricism. We see this in the images too. A thin, excited light quakes in the margins of each frame—coalescing into something neither Atlas, nor any of us, can possibly imagine.


Valerie Kabis

09_Assimilation
I.
Aberration, abstraction, absurdity, abulia, agony, assimilation.

Fusion, loss of form, deprivation of form, renunciation of form, comprehension of new boundaries through associating with the moon, the sun, the ray of light, the drop of water, the night, the street buzz, the horizon, the sound, the abstract form.

Recombination. Immersion. Absorption.

This body fluid, flows, tears. There I am a border of my limited condition as a living shape flesh forms.

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II.
Where shape of the restrictive light ends?

Where I start? Where I end? Deafening music of stars above.

Assimilation with soil, chaos, absolute, unquiet void between light and night.

Nothing remains in me and my entire body falls beyond the limits, becoming a sphere of no-form.

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III.
Crystal air hands as edge of birdy animal wings embodying the night into the flesh sleeping glottis devoid eyes amethyst mirror at peace serene wrists blind to the blankness of sound surface white noise sounds white switched on the idle channel beam at whisper eve opening a book revealing the soul the mask of clarity wind rose kiss rose world rose women at bridge cognitive dissonance of the water under cloud wedge vowel mouths acres of words volumetric bulk of comet pregnancy little prince saw dream flesh burning wet glass evaporates the cold air from your surface beneath odd voice of existence deprived echo of crumpled surrealism.

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IV.
Self-conviction falls through the ripped masks of the days tears off the oil nights savory layers the fingers string breaks inside soft brushes caress the rough cheek skin red feather disappears in the sun mirrors settling in pupils of blossom the submitted stars on white sheets space merge with the imminent day break spring will wake inevitable snow melting water will rise under the cold heels soles you are still standing lit by dim light of the lamp scratched out eyes wrapped in night staircase draughts five minute to eternity​.

03_Assimilation


Check out more incredible work from Valerie Kabis on her website: www.vkabis.com. And follow Kabis on Facebook and Instagram!

v2.16 / The Visions of Gerasimos Platanas

“Traces of existence”—that’s how the Greek photographer Gerasimos Platanas describes his work. But not existence as we might typically imagine it. No indications here of the workaday trudge from job to shop. I see traces of existence on ecstatic planes—traces of love’s tremor, of sight’s erratic emphasis, of touch and its deepest estates. These are photographs of a romantic eye closed. In the writings Platanas chose for these images, we hear echoes of what we see: “In the sweet light of love I realized . . . the inward self is the only self which really exists.” I can live with that—so long as these “visions” exist somewhere too.


Gerasimos Platanas - Vision (6)

“I was no longer myself, was another, and yet it was on this account that I became properly myself. In the sweet light of love I realized, or believe I realized, that perhaps the inward self is the only self which really exists.”
—Robert Walser

Gerasimos Platanas - Vision (5)

“The soul of the world had opened and I fantasized that everything wicked, distressing and painful was on the point of vanishing . . . all notion of the future paled and the past dissolved. In the glowing present, I myself glowed.”
—Robert Walser

Gerasimos Platanas - Vision (7)

“Let everything that’s been planned come true. Let them believe. And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world. And most important, let them believe in themselves. Let them be helpless like children, because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant. But when it’s dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.”
—Andrei Tarkovsky

Gerasimos Platanas - Vision (2)

“Creatures of a day. What is someone? What is no one? Man is the dream of a shadow.”
—Pindar

Gerasimos Platanas road

“Dreams are very queer things. Pictures appear with terrifying clarity, the minutest details engraved like pieces of jewelry, and yet we leap unawares through huge abysses of time and space.”
—Fyodor Dostoevsky


See more from Gerasimos Platanas in the August issue of Adore Noir and in Vol. II of Eyemazing Susan (Eyemazing Editions). For more news on upcoming projects, check out gerasimosplatanas.daportfolio.com and http://gerasimosplatanas.portfoliobox.net/.

All images ©Gerasimos Platanas and used by permission.

v2.15 / Behind the Mask of Etienne Ketelslegers

Scholars still debate the purpose of neolithic mortuary masks. Did they honor the dead or summon the dead to life again? Did they extol the gods or ward off evil spirits?Neolithic Plaster Skull from Jericho And what of those extraordinary skulls, plastered in Jericho some 10,000 years ago—whose artists, obeying their inner Thomas, put their fingers on the bone.

That neolithic impulse endures in the work of artists like Etienne Ketelslegers who reimagines his craft for the twenty-first century. Ketelslegers uses MRI scans to see between the world of the living and the world of the dead. But this series says nothing about dignity in life or death. The images destroy clichés. Ketelslegers creates a picture of humanity fit for Greek mythology: both comical and grim, alien and familiar, serious and lighthearted, amiable and irreverent—rife with contradiction and so very human.


Etienne Ketelslegers

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Self Portrait © Etienne Ketelslegers

After drawing and painting, portrait photography became the best way to accurately reproduce the subject. These days, medical imaging uncovers another aspect of the face whose resemblance to the subject is even more deeply, more intimately, perceived. Medical imaging displays the fragile carnal envelope. What initially seems so familiar becomes outlandish and even unrecognizable for the individual to whom it belongs.

Etienne Ketelslegers (3-6)
Identity © Etienne Ketelslegers

During the infinitely short timeframe of my portrait snapshot, I am neither a subject nor an object; it seems rather that I am a subject becoming an object—a “micro-experience” of death, the making of a disembodied spirit. I have no idea what the viewer will think or understand or imagine (there are so many ways these faces can be interpreted). But the viewer-as-Other, as Stranger, aids in that transformation.

Etienne Ketelslegers (4-6)
Masks © Etienne Ketelslegers

The faces exhibited in the series “Behind the Mask” may be those of the artist or of any other person: they are “no-identities.” And yet, they all show expressivity in gaze or mouth shape. It is remarkable how alike we all are once the face’s mask is removed. Randomly selected and put together, these masks share an aesthetic quality that supersedes distinctions of race, gender or even age.

Etienne Ketelslegers (5-6)
Madness © Etienne Ketelslegers

For many cultures, masks wield power over natural forces and the invisible world—a power only apparent to insiders. Similarly, medical imaging transmits secrets understandable only to those educated in its technical process. But there are aesthetic messages too, universally available and just as powerful.

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Alienation © Etienne Ketelslegers

Photography can be foolish or wise. It is wise if its realism changes with the times, adapting to the aesthetic customs of the present. Photography is foolish if it resists change and stops evoking questions. These portraits face the reality of Time. Though the MRI is typically used for diagnostic purposes, it becomes, for me, a “photographic art” as soon as it generates contemplation, questions, attraction or even aversion.


To see more from this series, be sure to check out Etienne Ketelslegers on Facebook, and visit his website for a look at Ketelslegers’ previous work on Iceland.

v2.14 / Eric Kellerman’s Tenebrisms

There’s a poem I love by Heather McHugh that describes sunlight shattered by trees and water—an event without boundary, without order, yet somehow channeled by the eye, as if in deference to sight itself. In the opening lines, she says:

The sun that puts its spokes in every
Wheel of manhandle and tree

Derives its path of seashines
(Sheer centrifugality) from my

Regards. I send it
My regards. Some yards

Of lumen from the fabrika
Have come unbolted from the look

Of it (or likes of me) . . .

It’s the way I feel when I look at Eric Kellerman’s images of striped light colliding with dark torsos, scapulas, and the dunes of the mons veneris. The eyes (mine, at least) respond in kind—unbolted, loosed from all sense of origin, cause, effect. A complimentary esteem. To the tenebrisms: my regards.


Eric Kellerman

These photos form part of an ongoing series called Tenebrisms. The word “tenebrism” (deriving from the Latin for “darkness”) usually refers to a style of painting associated with Caravaggio and others, where deep shadow prevails and strong contrast is used to heighten the drama of the subject matter. However, my tenebrisms are far from dramatic; on the contrary, they are rather quiet, reflective things. No Judith beheading Holofernes here.

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Kim’s Downward Slope © Eric Kellerman

Like one or two other photographic styles I have evolved, the first tenebrism came about accidentally. The stripe of light, created by the flash of a snooted studio lamp through a narrow gap between two abutting boards onto a woman’s angled face, cast an interesting shadow—one that, following the contours of forehead, nose and chin, appeared to be the profile of another dark face superimposed. I call this photo Eclipse, for reasons obvious when you see it!

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Becky’s Dark Portrait © Eric Kellerman

The stripes my studio lamps and abutting boards generate are not as a rule smooth bands of undifferentiated light—for one thing, their passage through the narrow gap also endows them with interference patterns in the form of alternating substripes, both lighter and darker. These add variety and texture to the image.

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Elle-Beth’s Back and Side © Eric Kellerman

But best of all is the unpredictable journey undertaken by the stripe as it encounters the contours of a complex volume like the female body. Anatomical discontinuities are brought together by highways of sinuous light adjusting their routes, widths and intensities according to the terrain traversed. This is where the precision work begins, a choreography of muscle, bone, sinew and skin. Every small move, a single breath, a twitch, can make or break a photo.

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Laura’s Undulations © Eric Kellerman

As I’m a photographer who believes in improvisation, the sudden spotting of a potentially good tenebrism will certainly induce a frisson. “Hold it!” I hear myself shriek at my already very still collaboratrix. “Don’t move, don’t breathe, don’t think!”

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Portrait of N © Eric Kellerman

Serendipity beats meticulous planning any day . . .


Kellerman’s The Box was one of 2015’s “books of the year,” awarded by the Federation of European Photographers. See more from Kellerman on Facebook and check out his most recent book from Edition Galerie Vevais!

Feature Image: Anna’s Shoulders © Eric Kellerman

v2.13 / Igor Pisuk’s Diary of a Nobody

It’s an extraordinary time for photography and photographers. The boundaries have all but disappeared, the medium is as open as Mars for exploration. With the photo/graphic strips of Igor Pisuk, I’m reminded of just how strange and entertaining photography can be.

Robert CrumbI see that great Weirdo angst of Robert Crumb in Pisuk’s images—gritty, low-fi, a bit like a used razor. But Pisuk also puts me in mind of the offbeat, but charming, nineteenth century proto-graphic novel, The Diary of a Nobody (1892), written by the brothers George and Weedon Grossmith and illustrated by Weedon himself. The preface to The Diary could have served for this feature just as well:

“Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see—because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’—why my diary should not be interesting.”DBY_14618552240

Pisuk’s everyman persona is not just interesting. It’s self-deprecating, punchy and mad in that “north-north-west” sort of way. The strips are full of the kind of calamitous banalities that are impossible not to recognize in ourselves. Check out more from his series “Dog Walker” at www.igorpisuk.com.


Igor Pisuk

I was lying sick in bed. Angry about the elections. I saw the movie American Splendor and cried and laughed at the same time. This story fascinated me so much that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s a story about Harvey Pekar – an author of comics, who was one of the first who used the comic form to tell a story about ordinary life. Without super heroes, or a princess on a white horse, no fantasy, no fake. It was just life. Strong, funny, creepy, brutal and honest. Interestingly, Pekar wrote only a kind of script, and then he invited illustrators to make the pictures for his stories. For several years, I worked with personal documentary photography, but often I felt that I also needed words and dialogue.

American Splendor inspired me to create something similar to the comic form. I decided to use my own photos and put them into a filter that eliminated greyscale tones. I started to combine them in squares with dialogue and small observations from my life. It’s about weakness, different jobs, loneliness, fear, love and everything that is important to me. It’s a kind of visual haiku of my ordinary life.

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