Over the weekend of November 10, activist group Extinction Rebellion launched a dramatic installation in London’s River Thames. “Our House is Flooding” was comprised of a life-size brick house, complete with flood lights, a security camera, and a satellite dish, sunken into the British capital’s major waterway.
“Sadly, climate-change is something that affects every one of us. We want to respectfully raise awareness of the severity of the impending human-made disaster,” said Katey Burak and Rob Higgs, who co-built the house. “We wanted to make something that people can visually connect to, whilst leaning on the government and the experts to make the changes that need to be made. Until they make the big legal and financial changes, it’s very hard for people like me or you to make significant changes to protect ourselves and the world around us.”
The impact of climate change on the oceans is inextricably linked to the safety and health of land-bound humans and animals as well. In another chilling example of the immediate effects of climate change and rising sea levels, the world’s foremost art event, the Venice Biennale, was shut down just a few days after “Our House is Flooding”, due to damaging sea surges and floods in the fragile Italian city.
Keep up with Extinction Rebellion’s actions that fight for ecological and social justice on Instagram and Twitter, and find ways to get involved on the organization’s global website. (via Hyperallergic)
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Photographer Alison Pollack’s subject of choice is usually hiding in plain sight. To find the minuscule but magnificent fungi and Myxomycetes that she shares on @marin_mushrooms, Pollack drops down to hands and knees with a magnifying glass. “The smaller they are, the more challenging they are to photograph, but I absolutely love the challenge,” Pollack tells Colossal. “My goal is to show people the beauty of these tiny treasures that are all around the forest but barely visible unless you look very very closely.”
Pollack, who is a mathematician by training and “computer geek” by trade (she is now retired from an environmental consulting career), relishes the technical and creative challenges of being a self-taught photographer. She seeks to create compelling artistic beauty with her images while also depicting scientific details in sharp focus. Pollack explains that focus stacking allows her to capture the depth and texture of her small subjects, sometimes incorporating upwards of one hundred photos to create a single image.
To increase the breadth and depth of her discoveries, Pollack travels nationally—and sometimes abroad—to find more fungi and Myxomycetes during her native California’s dry season. She also invests in relationships with other mushroomers, attending weekend gatherings to learn from her peers. “I would love to be able to travel more to different parts of the world to look for and photograph mushrooms and myxos,” Pollack tells Colossal. “Australia and New Zealand, and tropical regions, have mushrooms and myxos that really call to me, and I hope to be able to travel to those areas some day. But every walk in my local woods is a mycelial adventure!”
You can explore more of Pollack’s previous fungi finds on Colossal and follow along with her latest discoveries via Instagram. Pollack also offers prints of her photographs; if interested, contact her on Instagram as well.
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Swedish artist Helene Schmitz focuses on the fascinating structural details of plants in her macro photographs. Throughout her long career, Schmitz has returned again and again to plants. By centering her subjects—dramatically unfurling blossoms and carnivorous plants—on matte backgrounds that complement the tones of the specimen, viewers are able to study the unique shapes and structures of each plant. Schmitz titles each work with the plant’s Latin name, heightening the aura of scientific precision in her portraits.
“The focus of my work as a visual artist is how human kind has examined, described, and exploited elements of the natural world,” Schmitz tells Colossal. Blow Up was inspired by German photographer Karl Blossfeldt’s plant portraits, and resulted in Schmitz’s first book of plant macro photography. The artist notes that her second series, Linnaeus Project, drew from Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’s pioneering work in creating order and categorization in the natural world, but also contributed to a pathway of modern exploitation of natural resources (Linnaeus also applied his hierarchical rankings, highly problematically, to humans). Schmitz’s showcase of the peculiar plants live on the edge of flora and fauna, Carnivores, was an assignment for National Geographic Magazine.
Helene Schmitz is represented by WILLAS Contemporary in Oslo, Galerie Maria Lund in Paris, and Turn Gallery in New York. See Schmitz’s work in person at Fotografiska, a photography-focused Swedish museum with locations in Stockholm and Tallinn, Estonia. The museum is opening its New York branch this winter.
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If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to download free high resolution images of 435 bird illustrations, you’re finally in the right place. The National Audubon Society has recently made John James Audubon’s seminal Birds of America available to the public in a downloadable digital library (signing up for their email list is a prerequisite).
Birds of America was printed between 1827 and 1838, and was filled prints created from hand-engraved plates based on Audubon’s original watercolor paintings. In addition to the prints, each bird’s page also includes a recording of the animal’s call, plus extensive written texts from the period of the book’s printing.
Audubon is widely lauded as the individual who brought an awareness and appreciation of birds’ beauty and fragility; the National Audubon Society has been active since 1905. Explore more of the Society’s current conservation efforts, as well as ways to get involved, on their website. (via Open Culture)
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Artist Ava Roth loves working on collaborative projects. But her studiomates aren’t fellow two-footed friends. Rather, Roth pairs with her backyard honeybees to create mixed media collages combining embroidery, beadwork, fabric, tree bark, and honeycomb. The Toronto-based artist builds artworks inside the comb frames, and the bees complete the pieces by encasing them in organic honeycomb patterns. “This project is a collaboration in the truest sense. It involves careful listening, respecting the bees, and cooperating with them entirely, from the choice of materials, size, timing and scope of design,” Roth tells Colossal. “My intention is to celebrate the extraordinary work of the honeybee and match it with sewings that invoke their delicate and ephemeral comb.”
The artist explains that she had been working in encaustic, a painting technique that incorporates wax, for several years, and decided to start collaborating with her bees as she learned more about Colony Collapse Disorder and sought to uplift and honor the bee’s work.
The threadwork in this collection mirrors the fragility and beauty of the honeycomb in which they are encased. By placing the embroideries in hoops, I am also giving a nod to a tradition of women’s work. Since the working bees are all female – and not making ‘fine art’, the finished pieces are very much in the tradition of marginalized women’s work, and sewing in particular. Because both the bees work and traditional women’s work have been largely functional, their beauty and significance have been easily overlooked.
Roth tells Colossal that it took a great deal of trial and error to solve for the variables like what materials the bees respond to instead of destroying, how long to keep the pieces in the hive before honey is deposited, and conveying to the insects which areas they should or shouldn’t build comb. The artist shares that she worked closely with Master Beekeeper Mylee Nordin on strategizing and implementing the project. Shown here are works from her abstract series; Roth also works in this mode with more representational images, which you can see on her website.
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A recent documentary from PBS includes a fascinating clip of an octopus changing colors while sleeping. The marine biologist involved in Octopus: Making Contact thinks that the sea creature was dreaming about hunting, which sparked the color shift to a camouflaged shade. Dr. David Scheel describes his theory in the documentary:
So here she’s asleep, she sees a crab and her color starts to change a little bit. Then she turns all dark. Octopuses will do that when they leave the bottom. This is a camouflage, like she’s just subdued a crab and now she’s going to sit there and eat it and she doesn’t want anyone to notice her. …This really is fascinating. But yeah, if she’s dreaming that’s the dream.
If you’re wondering how it was possible to document this occurrence, the octopus in question is being kept in captivity and closely studied by Dr. Scheel, an Alaska-based professor. Stay tuned for the full documentary, which premieres October 2, 2019, on PBS. (via the sleeping octopus’s enthusiastic cousin, Laughing Squid)
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