In an increasingly digitized world, artists who stick to analogue technologies are becoming a rare species. Even closer to extinction are those who fashion new technologies and methods that are purely mechanical.
Kim Keever is one such artist. His photographs appear to be crafted in an Industrial Light and Magic studio or an Adobe Photoshop .PSD file, yet they are created with the simplest of real-world tools, all of which have existed for decades.
The worlds Keever creates are built in fish tanks rather than After Effects layers, their atmospheres the result of inks and pigments squirted into water and left to sit rather than derived from combinations of digital filters and hue/saturation adjustments. No rendering required, these images are photographed using an awkward set up of large format film cameras, incandescent lights, cables, clamps, duct tape, dedication and humour.
Keever has been making these fantastical worlds for more than a decade. Like a biblical deity worshipped by some lost tribe of early humans, he builds these temporary worlds by hand, reaching in over the top rim of his 200-gallon fishtank located in his home-studio, deep in the east village at the top of an elevator-less tenement. Each meticulously constructed topography is accompanied by an ephemeral atmosphere of 100% humidity. In other words, they are drowned. Eventually they are dismantled to make way for the next imaginary place.
The panoramas the artist photographs of the results riff on the rich tradition of Romantic landscape painting. However, the way Keever betrays their conceptual artifice firmly places the finished works in a thoroughly contemporary setting; he often shows the edge of the tank, lighting cables in the background, or reflections off the glass surface to hint at the manner in which these worlds were manufactured. “Rather than presenting a factual reality, Keever fabricates an illusion to conjure the realms of our imagination.” These landsacpes are lies, places that do not and never will exist. Yet because they are physically constructed, at least temporarily, they are far more real than imaginary places contrived solely in a digital environment. Keever’s photographs bring Middle Earth to life, a place that never existed yet somehow many of us feel we’ve visited.
Keever’s works are currently on display in New York City as part of an important exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design. “Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities” illuminates the phenomenal renaissance of interest among artists worldwide in constructing small-scale hand-built depictions of artificial environments and alternative realities. Alongside Keever’s photographs will be works by many important contemporary artists including James Casebere, Joe Fig, Mat Collishaw and many others.
Later this summer, Keever will also have a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre of Virginia in Virginia Beach.
Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities
Museum of Arts and Design
June 7 – September 18
2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY
Contemporary Art Center of Virginia
Virginia Beach, VA
July 21– December 30
By Randy Gladman for The Ministry of Artistic Affairs.