MEDIUM: Digital Collage
My submission is a digital collage of a moose (Latin name “alces alces”) constructed from a variety of found imagery including professional photographs, stock images, and cartoons. Source images were overlaid and manipulated using Procreate on an Apple iPad to create a single animal specimen with subtle ghost-like transparency and shifting perspective inspired by cubists like Georges Braque and Paul Klee. Layer boundaries are emphasized in places through the use of half-tone patterns, drop shadows, and high contrast and saturation. Other layers are blended more thoroughly, creating a sense of continuity between otherwise disparate textures and colors. The result is a dynamic image, simultaneously tense and resolved, that hopefully evokes as much humor as it does discomfort and uncertainty.
This art piece was created for a book project associated with the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment (CHE) called “becoming-Feral” (https://becoming.ink/becoming-feral/) that sought to “curate a prismatic and multifaceted perspective on our understandings of other-animals and their ‘wildness’ through the re-imagined form of a bestiarum vocabulum (book of beasts).” My contribution aimed to explore the effects of digital representations of nature on perceptions of real-world natural spaces, whose character may or may not align with expectations. In the essay, I invite the reader to conduct an image search for “moose” and sample the veritable monocrop of ideal moose photographs it yields: subjects are predominately male, photos are taken in summer months before bulls shed their full-grown antlers, the subject is in full view and not obscured by trees or other vegetation, etc. As majestic as the animals in these images appear, I know from personal experience that real-world moose encounters are far more variable, and potentially more disappointing and/or dangerous.
What happens when images of nature come to stand-in for the real thing? And how is (or should) a digitally mediated environment (be) governed? By juxtaposing different representations of moose in a single digital image while calling attention to the collage’s digitality through use of half-tone and pixelated textures, I hope to encourage the viewer to consider how digital media and “big data” technology like unsupervised learning algorithms shape our perceptions of the natural world in subtle but profound ways.