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Why Vanessa Albury’s Sublime Ice-Filled Art Provokes Feelings Of Wonder And Terror

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photo courtesy of Vanessa Albury

“Water is turning the world”

Vanessa Albury devotes herself to processes that generate sublimity through effect, and while her primary practice centers around the moving image, her photographic work fixates on wave vibrations and movements of light and water. Albury is not intimidated by penetrating shadows and obscurity in her work, though she typically resists darkness, preferring to cast a torchlight on her subjects. Her works involve an intensified proximity to the natural world. By experiencing environmental conditions of closeness, her systematic approach to photography and observation at times conjures the practice of a crystallographer, as she examines structures in nature and the play of light across or through them.

Most recently, Albury immersed herself in a study of glaciers, and her solo exhibition, "Arctic, Future Relics," at NURTUREart, a gallery in Brooklyn, New York, this past fall elaborates on the psyche of ice. The artist observed and encountered glaciers in a Zodiac inflatable boat, operating with an astute awareness of capturing forms that are transitory, thawing, dissolving, and disappearing. It's resplendent and anxiety-provoking at once.  

When developing her photographs, Albury’s darkroom scenarios shape-shift with negotiated improvisation depending on where she happens to be. She spoke to me about how every darkroom is different but certain aspects remain uniform. Most consistent in this process is an acute sensitivity to light, or lack of light, while developing photographs.

Albury says, "Working in the dark requires using heightened senses of touch and memory, such as remembering where the focusing knob is, unrolling and clasping paper without sight... your mind goes to different places... a dreamlike place." During a two-month residency at Kunstvarteret Lofoten in Norway, she converted a janitor's closet into a darkroom, developing the photographs with fire: "I exposed the paper through a distressed mirror I found in the basement in my little 3-by-5 darkroom with candles and matches. Then I developed them in the expired developer, giving a metallic tan-gray tone to the black-and-white paper."

This experiment prepared her for the challenge of creating a darkroom on a sailboat during her participation in the Arctic Circle Residency Program, which occurred in 2014 around Svalbard, Norway:

So while living on the ship for about three weeks, I shot 106 sheets of 4x5 film with a wooden pinhole camera, and some 60 or so rolls of 120 film, and the scientist Tom McCormack from the U.K. let me turn the shower bathroom in his cabin on the boat into my developing darkroom room. You need a pitch-black room to develop 4x5 sheet film. So I would rock with the waves in the tiny cabin bathroom, feeling my way through the developing of the negatives. Then I had to hang them to dry, and I actually used the engine room all the way in the lowest deck of the ship. A few negatives fell to the hull and the metal machinery down there, so they have some nice dirt and such and such embedded or scratched into the images. The development was also a little irregular with the extra care I had to take to stay standing in the darkroom, so there are some welcomed irregularities that present like liquid splashes and pools in the negatives from that.

In Eric Wilson’s The Spiritual History of Ice, he observes that “ice suggests conclusions while water intimates introductions... Ice is the axle. Water is the turning world.” Albury’s impulse in capturing glacial patterns allows for an ecological awareness of potentially irreversible conclusions, or “future relics,” to form in the mind’s eye. Her instinct is to correlate apprehension with absence in her photographic experiments, allowing the viewer a meditative space to encounter—in their own ways—the ends of earth.   

photo courtesy of NURTUREart and Vanessa Albury

"Arctic, Future Relics" at NURTUREart.

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Photo courtesy of Balenciaga / Photo via @McDonaldsSverige Instagram

I'm cackling

Last year, Balenciaga released bright red square-toed mules which bore a striking resemblance to McDonald's french fry cartons. Now, the chain has fired back at the designer, threatening to release its own version of the shoes.

McDonald's Sweden posted a photo to its Instagram of a person wearing actual McDonald's fry cartons as shoes, and honestly, if there weren't yellow M's printed onto them, I'd have a hard time distinguishing them from the Balenciagas from a distance. Though the post doesn't directly reference the Balenciaga shoes, one can only assume that's who they are trolling.

McDonald's version actually makes for some pretty fly slip-ons, if you ask me. Good thing the Swedish branch of Mickey D's seems to be considering releasing the shoes if the post receives enough attention. The caption of the Instagram post translates to, "If we get 103042 likes we release these for real," though it only has about 17,000 as of publish time. These would likely cost much less than the Balenciaga shoes, which cost $545.

Internet, do your thing. I want a pair.

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Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.

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