Let’s pay a visit to the Department of Phenomenal Photoshop where the latest discovery is Ukrainian artist Alexey Kondakov, who removes the subjects of classical paintings and flawlessly inserts them into photos of the streets and public transit of Kiev. Nymphs, satyrs, angels, gods and mortals alike ride buses and trains and wait for the subway. They muse in solitude over cups of coffee, dance on train station staircases and in the backs of buses, and snatch kisses before their train reaches its stop. Whole Bacchanals take place behind buildings while gods make out on city benches.
It might sound like an odd juxtaposition, but the combination works uncannily well. Kondakov was inspired to start the project during a museum visit when he noticed how the subjects of classical paintings behaved no differently than modern folk. And sure enough, as we can see from these altered photos, the drunken revelry of classical characters isn’t all that different from modern partygoers. And love and heartache haven’t changed much over the centuries either.
I think we all need to take a moment to appreciate just how INCREDIBLY upset this painting and Ruben’s apparent love for it have made the curator at wga.hu:
In Greek mythology Silenus is a rural god, one of the retinue of Bacchus, a gay, fat old drunkard who was yet wise and had the gift of prophecy.
In Rubens’ painting he is shown drunkenly tottering, his belly swollen with meat and drink, and supported by a disparate collection of dotards, drunkards, blacks, children and young women. The careless inebriation of this bacchanal is expressed by a thicker touch that conveys the unwieldy weight of the drinkers’ gait.
The composition was originally conceived with half-length figures, but was later enlarged by Rubens himself. The painting hung in Rubens’ house.
Ha ha ha ha ha…my goodness. There is only a single Black man in this painting, but perhaps the incredible force with which he is pinching Silenus’s “gay, fat old drunk[ard]” ass* is enough to chagrin this curator into thinking there must be somehow more than one?
Apparently the thought of Rubens staring at this piece and smiling every morning while eating his breakfast sausage was just too much for some people.
*The pinch is actually an important part of the original story: Silenus is awakened from a drunken stupor and bound with his own garlands by nymphs and satyrs and made to sing a song of creation and the forces of nature for an important ceremonial dance.
“It was heart-shaking. Glorious. Torches, dizziness, singing. Wolves howling around us and a bull bellowing in the dark. The river ran white. It was like a film in fast motion, the moon waxing and waning, clouds rushing across the sky. Vines grew from the ground so fast they twined up the trees like snakes; seasons passing in the wink of an eye, entire years for all I know…I mean we think of phenomenal change as being the very essence of time, when it’s not at all. Time is something which defies spring and winter, birth and decay, the good and the bad, indifferently. Something changeless and joyous and absolutely indestructible. Duality ceases to exist; there is no ego, no “I”…as if the universe expands to fill the boundary of the self.“