Artists are a rare breed of mind. Rarely do they care much for the truth, for they know it is a myth. Yet, they love to instigate discussions surrounding this myth. They love to make you think. By means of light, eyes, and hands, artists across centuries have lined the road to curiosities, paved with good intentions from such minds we call ‘Masters’.
Cristina de Middel is one of this century’s new Masters.
At Spark International Festival of Media, Arts and Design, we were informed Cristina has 12 exhibitions opening globally this year, three of which were occurring on the same day. Two years previous to this, Cristina was, broadly speaking, relatively unknown on such a scale. How did she achieve such success at a tremendously quick pace?
Passion, delight, and “a little revenge every day”.
Cristina was a successful photo-journalist, working for large businesses like Reuters, all the way across to NPO’s based in third world countries. She learnt the traditional formulaic approach, in which news stories would be re-hashed every year at around the same time as years previous. There were only so many corrupt politicians one could photograph before the sport became as exciting as watching paint dry. The “informative value of the document” (document meaning photograph), recycled year after year, started to lose its mystical qualities of “truth” to Cristina. As a result, she created a blog http://eltercerpie.blogspot.co.nz/ (and a little payback) that ignited her curiosity and set her future alight.
This blog allowed for her experiments to gain momentum alongside the traditional 9-5 job she claimed as her security blanket. She would photograph the generic “truth” wanted by the media, then set about obtaining her own story from the same locations. This parallel allowed for quirky and delightful discussions. It was here that she could see documents need not be for shock/horror, but can be used for fun, for play, for discussions that asked from the audience, not tell you what you need to know.
I particularly enjoyed her project involving spam mail. She proudly declared she probably owns the largest collection of spam mail in the world. Now, spam is something we generally try to avoid. It wastes time (and for some ridiculous folks, their money). But spam is a great curiosity, in that it shows the creative nature of people, especially when trying to coerce others to release some of their hard earned cash towards their woeful tales of despair. Stories from her collection ranged from Nigerian banks, to marriage proposals, and a thousand more in between. Cristina selected eight delightful spam ‘stories’ and created from them an image to represent it. Turning a fictional string of sentences, into a real world image. Instantly, she blurred what we took to be fake Internet hash, and created images we would take (with a grain of salt) to be a representation of some idea of “truth”.
Her wonderment and inspiring dedication to her work fuelled the rest of the presentation, with works like ‘The Afronauts’ detailing how she tricked mainstream media, the world she learnt all the rules of “truth” in, and changed what can be considered ‘real’.
Cristina de Middel is a force to be reckoned with. This new Master is going to show us that the galleries she shows in, these white cubes well known for holding fiction in high esteems, might instead show us, inside her documents, the real world we’ve been curious about all along,
Trust me on this, it’s the truth.
Cristina de Middel: http://www.lademiddel.com/