To kick off the New Year, StandardVision’s artist takeover on the SVLA1 screen at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles is featuring “alteredspace/alteredscape”- a collaborative project by photographers Natalie Christensen and Jim Eyre. A collaboration spanning a continent and vast ocean, the two artists teamed up to create GIFs that explore social media as a creative platform while causing us to question the nature of what is “real” and “true” in an image. Christensen and Eyre are the latest artists to be invited to take over the two-week-long recurring 15-second spot to showcase their work to the public. The selected images will be on view through January 14, 2018.
How did you two meet?
Natalie Christensen: We have never met! Not in person, anyway. I started following Jim on Instagram and was really inspired by his photographs. Our friendship and collaboration has occurred completely inside of the confines of social media.
Jim Eyre: I saw Natalie’s work on Instagram and thought it was some of the strongest work I’d seen so I reached out with the hope that she would want to collaborate. Sadly, we haven’t met in person (there are no bus routes from London to Santa Fe!), but it would be so good to make this happen.
What sparked the collaboration for “Alteredstates/Alteredscapes?”
NC: I had done some collaborations with other artists, two painters and a digital artist, but never with another photographer. Jim suggested we try something together but we didn’t have a specific idea. Over a period of a year, Jim would send me “mash-ups” of our photographs – taking elements from two of his photos and two of mine to make a new, manipulated image. We then wanted to link the photos to the personal experience of sharing art on social media – how it impacts an artist psychologically and creatively.
JE: There was initially no plan at all, I had hoped she would consider me as a potential collaborator. Thankfully she did, and the rest is history I guess!
Could you tell us more about “alteredstates/alteredscapes?”
NC: The title is inspired by a science fiction/horror film from the 1980’s called “Altered States.” The film is based on sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs. We chose the title alteredstates/alteredscapes as a playful reference to the experience of using social media as an artistic platform and getting lost in all the imagery there. And let’s face it, social media can be like a drug – there is research suggesting that “likes” create a mini dopamine rush in the brain. We think it is a valid question to ask how that might be shaping contemporary photography.
Our images are using the vocabulary of minimalism and particular photographic tropes to create scenes that invite the viewer to question what is real.
JE: What I can add is that we wanted the feeling of the work to be in a sort of visual limbo, a state of uncertainty that makes the viewer question what they are looking at in terms of a real image of a scene or one that has been distorted in a way. I guess they are an extreme representation of what we see and question in the daily Instagram world.
Originally these pieces were going to be physical collages, but this felt alien to the medium that we use in our daily practice. So, using screen grabs of our photographs, we created a new image via Photoshop sketches. These were then retouched using the original raw files. Each one is a labour of love, taking days and in some cases weeks to complete.
Neither of you come from a “fine art/art school” background – what drew you to photography?
NC: I became very interested in photography after moving to Santa Fe. I wanted to get to know my new home, and a camera seemed like a perfect way to explore New Mexico. This place has a mystery and a power to it that is very difficult to describe in words, and I think that is one of the reasons that it has drawn so many artists – we are all trying to grasp the essence of it in a photograph, a painting, drawing, collage, etc. I chose photography because it is the perfect vehicle for my style of making art. I enjoy the pace of it, I like that I can make art while going about the routine aspects of my day. It has enabled me to see the world differently, to reconsider my ideas of beauty.
JE: I picked up a camera primarily to help distract myself from personal struggles I was dealing with at the time. I simply began documenting how I saw the world daily. I didn’t pick up a camera for a natural love of image making, but I have been working to break down the uneasy, subconscious barrier that may come across in my work.
Do your backgrounds in psychotherapy and architecture influence your work?
NC: Absolutely, my background as a psychotherapist is a major influence. I am interested in psychological symbolism in the urban landscape and I have been exploring that with my work for the past 2 years.
JE: Architecture is also just another creative manifestation of how I see the world. Line, space, order, and proportion seem to have always been part of me. I add to that colour, or lack of, in the images that I make today. I’m still exploring to find my aesthetic and better explain why my images appear the way they do.
Do you plan on collaborating on more projects in the future?
NC: Working with Jim has been an absolute joy. I have learned so much from him and would love to work on something else sometime in the future.
JE: Totally, it would be fantastic to work with Natalie again! What’s been special with this project is the purity of the creative process. The project has grown and developed over time and it feels right to share this work now. To be able to do this again would be amazing.
Do you have any additional exciting projects or plans on the horizon?
NC: The Alteredstates/Alteredscapes exhibit will open in London at Peckham Levels in early February and we are so excited about that! We have some things planned with the Instagram hub Minimalzine that go along with the opening at Pekham and maybe a few other surprises too….stay tuned!
JE: There are lots of things to explore with this project as Natalie mentions, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out over the year. I think it would be brilliant to show the work in Santa Fe to see how it communicates over there and for me this would be an ideal way to complete this collaboration.
Personally, I just want to learn how to enjoy my images, maybe this will not happen but this is my main ongoing project.