Digitally Born - Fantasy Transforms Reality
The Alternative Museum

JACQUELINE ARENDSE :: Assistant Curator for The Alternative Museum

Being able to manipulate images with the touch of a button
has opened a rich vein for the artist's imagination to delight us,
but more often to alarm and provoke.

The clearest thread that runs through Digitally Born is the artists' use of fantasy in portraying their unique visions. Being able to manipulate images with the touch of a button has opened a rich vein for the artist's imagination to delight us, but more often to alarm and provoke.

"The problem of knowing infects fantasy"*

Many works of art employ elements of fantasy, but because we've come to understand these elements as conventional ways of expressing certain ideas, we do not focus on their ontological status. As a result, art meant to be perceived as fantastic exists under that burden of convention.

The artists in Digitally Born intend a bizarre and obviously impossible fantasy, using photography, a medium more commonly employed for realistic portrayal to push us beyond the immediate and perceptible to a deeper understanding of our reality.

"Fantasy is parasitic on realism"**

Reality is the starting point for fantasy and the fantastic world can only exist beside the facts of the real world. Certainly artists from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century worked hard to create convincing representations of that world, and for photography, one of its greatest appeals since its invention has been its ability to vividly capture reality. So why expressly use fantasy?

Some artists are compelled to confront any positivistic conception of physical materiality with the idea that fact is not all there is in life and so in art. The inner world of the human mind and its subjective experiences has great value beyond the material world. Fantasy is a way to further explore this human reality -- and what better way to explore everyday reality than with the tool designed to capture it? The images of Digitally Born manipulate the rules of reality to create fantasies that uniquely explore the human psyche. But they not only explore, what is born of this digital world is a means to deeper understanding of our human, inner reality because these fantasies have transformed that reality.

"O I may love him, I may love him, for he is a man and I am only a beech tree."***

The artists in Digitally Born use fantasy in mocking or playful modes, jesting and questioning, sometimes bitterly, sometimes bizarrely, and usually with an undercurrent of pathos, as an expression of human needs.

Alessandro Bavari has made many photographs of people, animals, objects, architecture, landscapes, and fossils. He uses these images as the toolbox for his work, which is greatly influenced by Indo-European cultural myths and allegories. To create the fantasy inherent in these myths and allegories, he has developed a personal artistic language using these original photographs and industrial and organic materials, incorporating photographic processes and computer digitization, which according to Bavari, then leads to "a kind of contamination among the arts dissolving the boundaries that distinguish them" and dissolving the boundaries that separate the original photograph from his fantastic vision. His manipulation of his original photographs creates a narrative that describes unconscious urges and desires.

* Eric S. Rabkin The Fantastic in Literature (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1976)
** From George P. Landow, "And the World Became Strange: Realms of Literary Fantasy," The Georgia Review, Volume 33, Number 1 (Spring 1979)
*** George MacDonald Phantastes (Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

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