Zombie (The Great War)
The “Zombies” here are two anonymous identities, taken from group
photographs of soldiers, first published in 1932 in a book, called:
“The Horror Of It” by Frederick A. Barber. The book is arrangements,
writings and photographs from World War 1 (The Great War) and is
considered to be one of the first anti-war publications of it’s time. The
purpose of the book was expose horrific and gory images from the war;
as a document and a warning to future generations as ‘camera records
of war’s gruesome glories’.
I work from my own quasi archive of images and books. As I was looking
at the publications and magazines in which I found these images like these,
I noticed I was looking closely at some of the figures depicted. They were
distorted to some degree (the printing process itself that gave rise to these publications, a half-tone process that was the method of printing photographic
reproductions within these books, causes smaller images to degrade and
abstract when magnified) and they appeared to me almost to seem like corpses,
or zombies. It also occurred to me that these photographs were of course,
images of in fact, long dead individuals and I could create Zombies from
these images. By scanning in individual figures from the group photographs,
I would in effect be re-animating these distorted images of particular individuals
and isolating them, causing them to be devoid from their original context and history. The final method to de-contextualize them from this history would be
to screen print them on a material that signified the visceral nature of the images
themselves: cow’s skin. In effect, these pieces are in fact 'Zombies' from their own histories, and contexts. Re-animated in the world through a method not unlike a palimpsest of sorts, in which each identity is isolated and reproduced within a new
form and materiality, allowing for the clarity of the image to decay and decompose into a level of abstraction.
In this way, the viewer is left to attempt to identify each individual depiction. This search for identification, recognition and memory and the viewer's urge to inject meaning into each image, is a point of departure, as I thought about history, photography and the process of reproduction when I was making this piece. In this sense, these pieces themselves are ultimately Zombies.
- Adam Helms
About Adam Helms
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Adam Helms (1974 Tucson, US) lives and works in New York. He is primarily known for exploring the visual motifs underlying images of subcultures, symbols of violence and historical archetypes. Through the assembling, archiving and appropriating of mass-mediated and internet-sourced photographic material, Helms has investigated notions of the performed identities of opposition groups, notions of the heroic versus the anti-heroic and aspects of tropes surrounding masculine identity. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Walker Art Center, The Whitney Museum, The Guggenheim Museum in New York, and The Yale Art Gallery.
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