Francesca Woodman was a photographer who is well known for her surreal, black and white photography of which she is often the subject. The daughter of a family of artists, Francesca studied photography at RISD and in Italy, ultimately settling in New York City, where she had a studio. She died in 1982 at age twenty-two by suicide, jumping out of the Barbizon building.
Monkeys don’t usually have access to cameras, but it’s an extreme case that reminds us of a larger point: animals create objects, images, gestures, songs, and architecture all the time. Whether we label these activities as art is both a semantic and theoretical choice. One thinker arguing that non-human creativity should be included in our definition of art is curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. She asserts that the field of contemporary art is historically determined and far from universal. People imagine that the way they live–and the broad systems that organize their society–are the best, despite the fact that these things are always changing. History never ends, but we’re constantly fooled into thinking that everything has led up to the current moment with some kind of purpose or finitude.
Excerpts and curios from around the web:
The literature of mechanical life, debunking “the ladder of nature,” the legacy of the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and more. Plus: A look at Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies in relation to the current election cycle: “Trump may look like a rancid creampuff in a Brioni suit, but his crass language serves the function of a ripped physique in a ripped T-shirt, projecting a Stanley Kowalskian virility.”
“Hairdressers are my heroes. The poetry and politics of Black hair care specialists are central to my work as an artist and educator. Rooted in a rich legacy, their hands embody an ability to map a head with a comb and manipulate the fiber we grow into complex form. These artists have mastered a craft impossible for me to take for granted.”
“I was an athlete growing up, and many people don’t associate athletics with art, but I found athletics to be a very visceral and emotional world that in many ways informed my art later on. There’s a certain intuition an athlete has and this intuition is invaluable to my creative process. Of course there’s a team in many sports and I always was drawn to more solitary endeavors, so naturally I was drawn to writing and art.”