Ashes and Snow

We went to see Ashes and Snow by Gregory Colbert last week at the Santa Monica Pier. When I saw the initial promotions I wasn’t much interested. The images seemed too fake and new agey. Posed images of people and animals. But everyone we knew who went liked it, even after I voiced my reservations. Louisa’s mom came to town and it seemed like an interesting thing to do, so I agreed to go.

The installation in a stacked shipping containers is interested. The pictures are hanging on long wires from structures connnecting the containers. Music and small river rocks add to the ambience. The images are technically well done and many of them make interesting designs. And seeing sequences of images make them a little less fake as one got the idea how they were achieved. An amazing amount of work I imagine and patience. Waiting for the right light and weather, and even though the animals must have been relatively tame in most cases, many set-ups and tries must have been made. The promotional literature says they were “unscripted.” Unscripted maybe, but the actors knew what they were supposed to try to do. They didn’t all accidentally have their eyes closed. All the images were sepia toned and some were tinted. The literature said they were not “digitally maninpulated,” but they are listed as “mixed media.” So maybe not digitally manipulated, but manipuated.

The combination of closed eyes and sepia tones gave an overall deadly feel to the show. No expression, no happiness. Felt like waiting for death.

Our friends said don’t worry too much about the still images, the movie(s) make it worthwhile. One 60-minute movie and two shorter ones. The 60-minute movie did give a better idea of how it was all put together, but I still didn’t get the point. Although tigers and cheetahs were laying on people and people were curled up next to elephants, they were still lifeless. And somewhat creepy—maybe the Timothy Treadwell effect—he thought he was bonding with the bears, but they ate him nonetheless.

All in all, interesting images from a design (shape, forms, and shadows), but still cold and new agey.

Why did I write this? I guess I’m trying to understand popular culture (or why I don’t get or embrace it) and thought discussing it and writing it might bring clarification. I don’t think it did.

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