Sunday, April 3, 2016

Photographer Series #27: giashotkatemoss

Gia de Leo is a pseudonym, a museum guard, a student of cultural history and theory. Based in Berlin, she is currently writing a master thesis on the viral images of Alan Kurdi - the three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on 2 September 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea, as part of the Syrian refugee crisis.

iskm: How do you describe your art work?
Gia de Leo (GdL): I would prefer to say I am creating digital images not art works. Maybe it is art. Maybe not. That’s in the eye of the viewer.

iskm: How did you come to utilize collage?
Some years ago I wanted to remix digital reproductions of artworks but most of them were not available or difficult to find online. So I started to make collages out of my art and images from my book collection … But after a while I was sad over my book destruction and wanted to keep them, stopped and dumped all collages.
So I started to remix digital works. I play with those tiny images by using reproductions of some successful artists, remixing them with their own works or unknown artists, memes, news images, my own photographs or whatever appears on my screen. It feels much better as I am not destroying anything “real”.

iskm: As you talk about remixing images, can you speak to the role of (or your perspective on) appropriation in the context of remixing?
GdL: Generally this expansion of the realm of imaginary and reality amazes and scares me. Image overflow. Image saturation. The belief in the authenticity of photography is fading. Everything is speeding up. Most images live only for a short breath. We are breathing images as air, consuming them. But they do not disappear.

iskm: Imagery as a form of ‘net art’?
GdL: Net art or better net images fascinate me because of their accessibility to anyone with an internet connection. Free from traditional art institutions and the art market everyone can nowadays declare himself as an artist. New social communities are formed opening up new image or art worlds and markets. For me questions arise like: Do memes have a more visual and sometimes even political power than images of artworks? Why are images of artworks more copyright protected than images of dead refugee children? What is the difference between a regular image, a meme or an image of an artwork? When is a selfie an artwork?  Who defines what art is online? Does the question what art is still matter online? Is the author now finally dead? Who cares?

iskm: And now we all appropriate the imagery …
GdL: Yes, anarchist appropriation is happening constantly. Kill your idols and kill yourself. If one would see my remixes separated from each other one could not tell who did it. I am using other online platforms to publish other kinds of remixes. Maybe you could identify the Picasso or the Warhol used but not the author as they all vary in their imagery. Memes have for me in this sense of the dead or killed author a role model function even if some of them lack any political correctness and of course too many people are excluded from this development, as they have no access at all.
Gia de Leo's collage $3,346,456
iskm: When you posted the collage $3,346,456 recently online you wrote “Homeless Thomas W. died from the cold around the corner of Kurf├╝rstendamm, the main shopping street in Berlin. RIP.” Who was Thomas W.?
GdL: Homeless Thomas W. died on the 16th of January 2016 from exposure at Kurf├╝rstendamm, the main shopping street in Berlin. Next to him they found his shopping cart filled with personal items. People described him as a very friendly person. I read about his story in the newspaper and immediately started to mix all available kinds of images in my mind on the screen of my smartphone.

iskm: Did you know him?
GdL: I did not know Thomas W. personally but daily I meet homeless people. My father was a homeless alcoholic for some time too. Back then I was twelve years old, I cared but could not help. Maybe that is why my reaction was so impulsively emotional.

iskm: How did you make the collage? What are the source images and why did you select them?
GdL: When I thought of Thomas W., the shopping mall, his shopping cart simultaneously artworks appeared in my mind like Duane Hanson’s sculpture Supermarket Lady (1979), Sylvie Fleury’s empty, gold-plated shopping cart and Doug Aitken’s work with the shopping cart standing there lost and alone on the roof of a park deck. Consumerism, supermarket and this simple thing of a shopping cart, which is functioning in different kinds of meanings and markets were a link between my very spontaneous image selection. And of course Andreas Gursky is a star in the contemporary “supermarket of art“. His photograph 99 Cent (2001) of a supermarket sold with a price of $3,346,456 at a Christie’s auction, becoming one of the most expensive photographs. I titled my remix after the price of Gurskys work. In total contrast my remix is a cheap digital image, not available for sale, shared with everybody, produced in an hour on a smart phone, a remix in low resolution. If you print it you maybe see nothing anymore. It may disappear.

iskm: Why Kate Moss?
GdL: The photograph of Kate Moss shopping in her bikini reminds me somehow in her almost flying movement with the swinging ponytail of the “ninfa fiorentina“ in the painting “The Birth of John the Baptist” (1485-1490) by Domenico Ghirlandaio. Aby Warburg described her as an ‘ecstatic nymph’. In my image, Kate Moss is compared to the most homeless people, who are wandering through the cities wrapped in many layers of clothes in the winter time, wearing a bikini, skinny, having her shopping cart filled with consumer goods. A symbol of the easy breezy sunny side of shopping life. A real model who gets paid for professional shootings, to inspire people to consume. An icon in many senses, but also for the insatiable consumerism of images.

iskm: Which photographers/artists would you most want to most see involved in ishotkatemoss?
GdL: Those who inspire me are and will be part of my remixes. Regular images and images of artworks by people and artists.
I have mentioned others that inspired me for this image, but also I greatly respect the photography project ”Sycamore and Romaine“ by Martin Schoeller. He portraits homeless people with dignity by giving them back identities and telling their stories. Nobody needs to be ashamed to be homeless. A society who is not able to provide free housing and financial aid for the poor and troubled could be. Isn’t it absurd or even perverted that image stock markets like Getty print their logo and the name of photographers on images of homeless people - while the people “the models“ stay anonymous? They stay poor and homeless while others are profiting. It just feels wrong to me.

And to us too. Even though it underlies and is inherent in every aspect of the project - which now includes Gia de Leo's digital collage with Thomas W. - we have recently not spent a great deal of time reflecting on pure commercialization behind the use of images. Of course, kate is our metaphor for this and we felt that highlighting $3,346,456 and the ideas behind it were critically important. You can see more of Gia de Leo's socially conscious work on instagram.

Observe. Slow Down. Shoot. Submit

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