Read our interview with Zak Arctander, whose work is featured in this year’s VICE Photo Issue.
Photographer Zak Arcander on Butterflies, Raves, and Being Alive
From the 2014 VICE Photo Issue: Spirit and Matter by Michael Bühler-Rose
Do you like butts? Do you enjoy fashion? Then you’ll just absolutely adore this.
Jamie Warren’s Self-Portrait as Pennywise the Clown with the Blob, Jason, Freddy, Chucky, the Leprechaun, and Basket Case in Recreation of the Nativity Scene from the Vyšší Brod Altarpiece (1350), 2014.
Jaimie Warren made this photograph for the 2014 VICE photography issue. We asked performance artist Joseph Keckler, who plays Freddy Krueger in the picture, to provide us with a little more context for Jaimie’s work.
Introducing the VICE Photo Issue 2014
A disclaimer: Nothing in this year’s VICE photo issue is as it appears to be. Each page of the magazine is actually a piece of paper that been decorated with ink by our printer in Sussex, Wisconsin, in collaboration with our team here at VICE, so that it looks like something it is not. To further illustrate my point: The image below is not a blue sky dotted with perfect clouds, seen through the gauzy curtains of a dream window; it’s actually pixels on your computer screen changing color, or some shit.
But you knew that already. I’m just trying to say that photographs are never reality—they’re always the subjective opinion of someone who is releasing the shutter of a camera at a certain moment. It’s more or less a 1/8th-second crop of the photographer’s reality, or whatever reality he or she wants you to think existed. Photographs are unreliable. Clearly, pictures lie to millions of people every day in more ways than we could list here. Even so, some images have the power to rally entire generations to a cause, move any one of us to tears in their presence, allow the dead to live forever, and more.
It’s from this slippery and uncertain vantage that VICE’s 2014 photo issue takes its perspective. Curated along an expanding of the term trompe l’oeil, this year’s edition is a showcase of smoke and mirrors, featuring photographic illusions and transformations of all kinds. The issue includes a wide range of visual tricks, deceptions, and transformations by some of the greatest artists working today. Contributions from venerated photographers whose images have changed the world—such as Weegee, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons—share pages with the visionaries of tomorrow. Here are just a few of the issue’s highlights:
The magazine has a double cover by Michael Bühler-Rose—there’s an eyeball with a hole punched through it you can rip off, and the reverse has instructions for a ceremony to remove the evil eye.
There’s a three-page foldout by Cindy Sherman—an early work made when she was in art school.
Kevin Zucker contributed sunsets photographed on color Polaroid film, though he removed most of the color by shooting them through gray plastic.
While photographs are never reality, I will admit they depict some kind of absolute. The camera is, after all, a mechanical device: The lens records whatever appears before it with a cold yet democratically unflinching eye. And that fickle kind of truth is an extremely powerful force, if you can harness it. So I urge readers to greet the 2014 photo issue with skepticism. Look closely and never take its pages at face value. But find comfort in the uncertainty of not knowing what happened before of after the shutter fell—in that hazy, brief window, the very essence of human existence can be crystalized, forever.
An exhibition of work from the VICE photo issue 2014 will open at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn on July 31st and remain on view through August 10th.
See more of the photo issue’s content here.
Download the iPad edition here.
Sarah Shoenfeld Makes Art by Dropping Drugs onto Film Negatives
That big photo in the middle is a sample of speed. It was mixed with water and then dropped from a pipette onto an exposed film negative. It was then allowed to react with the light sensitive silver halide particles to create a visual impression of its own chemical make-up. These almost photos were made by the Berlin artist Sarah Schoenfeld, who says she’s been interested in depicting the undepictable since she was a child. “First I wanted to be a musician,” she told me over the phone. “But then I became more interested in how things look. Now I’m always looking for ways to make the internal, visual.”
These are lofty words, but then how do you render a narcotic event visually, without resorting to tacky drawings? Looking at it this way, her drug series All You Can Feel, nails the line between artistic depiction and scientific analysis, while somehow capturing something of the drug’s psychological effect. So I called Sarah up to say well done, and ask how she got the feelings so right.
VICE: Hi Sarah, that image of speed somehow looks the way speed feels. How did you do that?
Sarah Shoenfeld: Well, I didn’t think that when I first produced the work, but after I published the book (also called All You Can Feel) a lot of people said yes, this is how it feels. And what was really interesting is that I got a call from a drug rehabilitation center and they said that they had run their own little experiment. Without explaining the images, they had shown the book to their patients and asked them to pick a favorite. Every single one of them chose their drug of dependence, with 100 percent accuracy. Even the secretary who only ever drank coffee chose caffeine.
Wow. So how do you explain that?
Well if I had to say, maybe it’s that our understanding of reality is already shaped by our technology. We have these feelings, but don’t realize that they’re created by the things around us. So we think our feelings are our own, but here we recognize where those feelings came from. But I don’t know. I also like the idea that it’s not explainable.
Do you get asked to explain that a lot? Your answer felt suspiciously accurate.
No, most media people just ask where I got the drugs. And it’s like come on. I live in Berlin, I just buy them. Do we need to talk about it? Because you know, LSD was legal until everyone started talking about it.