RICHARD BARNES: Murmur + Refuge at FOLEY

Murmur no. 1, 2005. 44 x 44 inches, Pigment print

Murmur no. 13, 2006. 44 x 44 inches, Pigment print

In Murmur, Barnes observes the flocks of starlings that cloud the skies of EUR, a suburb of Rome.  In this series, Barnes depicts nature as it behaves on it’s own, alive and breathing.  The photographs capture the birds’ aerial displays, which seem to take on the form of suspended mesh sculpture, and the uncontrollable fluctuation of nature as it moves on its own.

Green Leaf Nest, 2000. Pigment print

Refuge examines the complex architecture of bird nests, constructed from elements of the natural world and debris discarded by humans.  The nests are intricate structures, unique in shape and form. Murmur and Refuge are part of Barnes' larger series, Animal Logic.
through February 23, 2014

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Elizabeth Avedon: Is your work collaborative or do you work resolutely by yourself?

Richard Barnes: I enjoy working collaboratively. While in Rome, I entered into what was perhaps the most fruitful collaboration of my career to date. I produced “Murmur” with Alex Schweder, an architect and video artist, and Charles Mason, a composer. “Murmur” forms another chapter in my book (Animal Logic, Princeton Architectural Press) and is an investigation into the flocks of starlings which every winter fill the evening sky over Rome. No one is quite sure why the starlings stopover in Italy but before roosting for the night, they converge on the city from the countryside in flocks numbering in the hundred of thousands. This would be impressive enough in it’s own right, but they also do these incredible aerial displays that resemble drawings or computer animation written large overhead. The effect is awe-inspiring, though the Romans detest this “invasion of the starlings”.

Elizabeth Avedon: There is a surreal quality to these images. Do you regard yourself as a Surrealist or feel an affinity with the notion of the images as a kind of dream?  

Richard Barnes: I certainly have an affinity for surrealist imagery. I don’t see how it can be avoided as it’s so ubiquitous in our time, from movies and books to advertising. What sets my work apart is that it grows out of a documentary tradition and from this straight ahead or forensic approach I subvert the document through either juxtaposition or de-contextualization of an object from its surroundings, thereby rendering it hyper-real. I believe real life is strange and surreal enough if one looks a little longer and harder than to attempt to make something surreal on purpose, which usually comes off as contrived. As far as my images conjuring up the realm of a dream reality in someone, I would take this as an indication that they are working. 

Murmur Installation, 22 4th St at Market, San Francisco
Permanent installation commissioned by Jamestown LP

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