Future Visions from Shana & Robert ParkeHarrison
There are plenty of artists out there creating pieces that question the human effect on the planet, but none seem quite as surreal and mesmerizing as the works of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison.
This husband and wife duo create apocalyptic-style photographs that hint at a future we’re very quickly heading towards. Using collaborative methods that combine Shana’s love of dance and Robert’s talents in photography, the specially crafted scenes are both filmic and eye-opening.
Man’s effect on our landscape is the biggest driving force behind the couple’s work, with every piece flaunting the human influence on the planet – predominantly in a negative way.
“We create works in response to the ever-bleakening relationship linking humans, technology, and nature,” the duo say in their artistic statement, referring to the dramatic images that are simultaneously impossibly surreal and instantly recognizable.
They go on to add that they imbue their work with an ambiguous narrative that sits at the crux of science and technology, and the haphazard way we’re attempting to save the planet. Scenes involving swarming movement, barren landscapes, abandoned funfairs, and splayed wires show nature in a way that’s less beautiful and more real (at least, it could be a reality in a hundred years).
The pieces are made using a mixed media approach, combining the performance aspect of Shana’s past and the photographic elements that Robert has picked up over his lengthy and successful career. Robert acts as a sort of “everyman” in each image – faceless and nameless, but completely relatable.
Incorporating dance, painting, and sculpture to create new worlds entirely, the finished pieces are completed with a trademark historic filter, giving them the look and feel of old family photos. This is predominantly used to create a dreamlike aura around the scenes which, paired with the futuristic machines and elements, provides a sort of nostalgic feeling of loss.
Though the pieces display a sepia-style tone, there are splashes of colour that have been used intentionally but in an abstract way, while “proportion and space are compositional rather than natural.” The movements in each piece are blurred to reinstate the dreamlike narrative, while the subjects (including the characters portrayed) seem lightweight and barely-there in their choreography.
The ParkeHarrison pieces are unique in that they’re both visually arresting in their distinctive style and subject matter, but also incredibly powerful in the messages they deliver.
Swinging between a range of strong emotions like hope, despair, joy, grief, idealism, and nihilism, each piece packs a different punch for different people. The ambiguous nature of the work means viewers can stamp their own story on the canvas, using the interchangeable “everyman” character to reflect their own needs and desires.
This, combined with the unfinished, family photo style quality encourages the viewer to question, project, and speculate at what the future might hold if we are to carry on treating the planet the way we do. The result is a body of mysteriously powerful work that, at first glance, might seem like a surreal concoction of different elements but, on closer inspection, talks directly to the viewer about the downward spiral of the earth.
Enjoy the track “Now is Ever” by Cio D’Or while you view the remaining works below.
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