This week’s image in the 2010 Portfolio Project comes from the duo of Arlo Valera and Hyeyoung Kim. Birdhouse is a menacingly whimsical picture that is by turns inviting and psychologically terrifying. The created scene is photographed with a cinematic eye, leaving the door of narrative possibility wide open for the viewer to walk through.
- First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. I’d like to start with the image selected, entitled Birdhouse. Can you talk a bit about the story behind this image?
- Arlo: A lot of the work Hyeyoung and I do for this series plays with the idea that you as the viewer have been led into a private moment, or entering an atmosphere where something is about to happen. In this case I think I wanted something to do with a guy running away from birds (kind of like the Hitchcock movie). I felt running figure needed a reason to be running away, so I gave him a birdhouse head. I can speak from personal experience to say that there is something both scary and funny about being attacked by birds.
Hyeyoung: Also birds in this image are metaphor of anyone’s peril or fear from which they want to run away.
- Your created images are composed of fictional scenery, composed very dramatically. The sets themselves obviously take a lot of craft and time to make. I’m wondering, do you consider the work you do primarily photography, or primarily sculpture/3D craft, or something in between? Does the distinction even matter?
- We found that photography was a good tool for story telling and allowed us to incorporate our other loves, like drawing and sculpture. We like to think of the final photograph as a souvenir of the process or journey. There is always a bit of a “grey area” when we try to explain the series to someone in terms of how to categorize it in photographic terms. We sometimes say mixed media or photo-illustration. Making the distinction about the particular type of media we are working in is not that important to us, but we understand that it is often needed when explaining our work to others (especially if they have not yet seen it). We just think of the whole series as an ongoing experiment.
- Your scenes strike a tantalizing balance between whimsy and horror that I find compelling. In a way, it reminds me of David Lynch’s movies, that sense that things are absurd, terrifying, and funny, all at the same time. Can you talk about any specific influences on your art, whether it be other artists, films, or whatever?
- Arlo: I saw Calder’s Circus by Alexander Calder it on a film reel in class when I was a kid. It was a miniature circus world he created where the characters were made entirely out of ordinary household materials. It has had a lasting effect on me even after all these years. At the time (around mid 1990′s) I began working on this series, I was being inspired by artists like Paul Klee, Hieronymus Bosch and Goya. I was very interested in anything labeled outsider art, films by the Brothers Quay, Terry Gilliam (yeah, David Lynch must be in there too). I was into Photographers like Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Joan Fontcuberta and Joel Peter Witkin, I was reading stuff like Stanislaw Lem, Philip K. Dick, Kenzaburo Oe, and Oliver Sacks. I am sure there were many more, but these artists were the ones that came to mind when I think about influences that began this particular body of work.
Hyeyoung: I adore many of works from the people Arlo mentioned above. Surely, their works I read, saw, or watched must have been staying somewhere in my subconsciousness and influenced on my art. However, my great influence comes from my everyday life experiences and the provoked emotions from them. I find life is the most “absurd, terrifying, and funny” thing.