Anouk Kruithof, Trans Human Nature

JTF (just the facts): Self-published in 2021 (here). Softcover (24×32 cm), 96 pages, with 99 color photographs. Contains 1 fold-out poster (64×96 cm), and texts by Mathilde Roman. In an edition of 500 copies. Book concept and design by Doris Boerman and the artist. (Cover and distribute the plans below.)

Comments/Background: Anouk Kruithof is an innovative and interdisciplinary visual artist, whose practice blends a wide range of tools, both digital and physical: photography, performance, video, installation and websites. His projects have often shed light on pressing social issues, including government surveillance, global warming and privacy. She also explored different aspects of cultural identity and self-expression; her current installation “Universal Tongue” examines dance across a range of histories and cultures, bringing together hours of videos (collected from YouTube and Instagram) and showing some 1,000 different dance styles. Over the years, Kruithof has published a dozen risque photo books, covering a range of topics and using various design approaches.

Kruithof’s most recent artist publication, titled trans human nature, shares “the story of a personal journey and an artistic exploration”. The project was inspired by his stay in Botopasi, a small village (with a population of just under a thousand) in the middle of the almost untouched Amazon rainforest in Suriname (a former Dutch colony, which got independence in 1975). Kruithof decided to build a house in this village and eventually tried to live his life there in harmony with nature and the local community. Sharing her experience of living there, she notes that “in Botopasi, there are no shops, there are no roads – vegetables have to be brought from town – and there are no only three hours of electricity a day. It’s a very original life, very natural.

In human trans nature, Kruithof uses photography to reflect on the links between ecology and technology, presenting globalization and technological progress as both dividers and unifiers. trans human nature is a softcover publication with a plastic jacket. The title of the book appears on the dust jacket in white letters, in capitals; the name of the artist is also inscribed there, but it is almost invisible (as if it had disappeared). Inside, the photographs vary in size and placement on the pages, creating a dynamic visual flow. The book has an open spine and easily lays flat. At the end, the post also contains plans of the associated exhibit installation, along with thumbnails and captions that provide additional information about the images.

For this project, Kruithof selected stock images that represent the future of technology (many of which show humanoid robots) and printed them on flexible materials like PVC plastics, various fabrics and silk. Then she inserted them in various locations around the Amazon jungle and the Suriname River, producing bizarre, interconnected realities. All the photographs of trans human nature were created without any digital manipulation, and using only the available environment. Kruithof carefully constructs and directs her photographs as she immerses the prints in the river, takes them with her on hikes, or hides them in the greenery of the jungle. She “merges the spirit and force of nature from the Amazon jungle with the higher-level intelligence of trans-human life,” reads the text of the project description.

These futuristic ghosts, embedded in the environment, form strange hybrids, both foreign and harmonious, with nature. One of the photographs shows the face of a humanoid robot submerged under still water; it is called “Aquatronic”. Another full page captures a pinched bionic hand photographed under a surface covered in water drops. These images also relate to the process of self-transformation. A number of the plates combine close-ups of leaves with text, and one asks, “What happens to become stone, to become a plant?” The image of leaves titled “Code Green” appears alongside a representation of digital codes, making unexpected connections between the two worlds.

Repeatedly, the fragmented faces of the robots appear in the dense, untouched greenery of the jungle. In another image titled ‘Where are the black robots?’, the head of a black man hides behind a green leaf with holes for his eyes – his presence is easy to miss – and on the left is a close-up of a leaf, showing its texture dotted with various holes. One of the final images in the series shows a woman walking through water, wearing a lightweight, almost transparent outfit with a printed face of a humanoid robot.

As his career has developed, Kruithof has continued to blur the lines – blending reality and fantasy, interweaving imagery and sculpture, and creating layered visual narratives. In this recent work, she suggests that the relationship between humans and machines is not as separate as it seems and should be analyzed as an intermediary. She also acknowledges that life in the remote region of Suriname has fundamentally changed her: “I am more and more aware that I want to link my work to this life, to how we are all responsible for the future of the earth and of us as humanity. As a next step, Kruithof plans to transform the wooden house she built in the village of Botopasi into an artist’s residence.

Collector’s point of view: Anouk Kruithof is represented by Galerie Valeria Cetraro in Paris (here) and Casemore Kirkeby in San Francisco (here). His work has yet to find its way to secondary markets, so gallery retail remains the best option for interested collectors to follow.

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