theatrical photo

Mining the uncanny valley, Elia Alba produces bizarrely captivating hybrids of photography and sculpture. Her photos are theatrical constructions, populated by a cast of masked figures who prowl through nature with an eerie grace. I find her sculptures even more compelling. Alba is interested in “identities in flux,” which she explores by wrapping photographs around wire frames or sewing them into Frankenstein-like bodies. The results are eerie, hybrid beings who defy easy interpretation; they make obvious their artificiality and yet seem perpetually on the brink of springing to life. They remind me a lot of Hans Bellmer’s iconic doll sculptures and the photographs he took of them. Both artists reveled in the unsettling effect of things that look almost like humans, but not quite. While Bellmer’s works were extremely sexual, Alba’s seem a tad more generalized, more interested in the physical interplay between photography and the body. In this one here, leathery skin, clothing, and images of feet intersperse, suggesting the constructedness of the young girl referenced in the title—as well as perhaps a disguise, or even her skinned corpse. By embracing a digital-DIY aesthetic, Alba reveals the increasing arbitrariness and instability of identity in a globalized society as technologies infiltrate bodies and they resist them.

Elia Alba, Portrait of a Young Girl, 2012