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TravelersReview - Travelers
by Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz
Aperture, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Dec 8th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 50)

Travelers is a collection of photographs of scenes created in snow globes.  Artists Martin and Muñoz create the whole thing and then take the pictures, making for a very distinctive set of images.  The book brings together two projects: Travelers and Islands.  The first is a series of smaller globes with bizarre and occasionally macabre snow scenes.  "Traveler 9 at Night, 2002" has a woman in a white bed resting on a snow hill, with snow falling on her.  "Traveler 156 at Night, 2005" shows a man with a suitcase in the snow, hurrying away from a giant spider with another man in its mouth.  "Traveler 62, 2003" has a man in a business suit sitting up a dead tree, with three people in white coats at the bottom of the tree talking to each other, and a ladder leaning on the tree.  "Traveler 30 at Night, 2003" shows two uniformed men in a snow scene.  One of them is pointing a gun at a third man, forcing him to walk down some steps into some space below the snow.  "Traveler 132 at Night, 2004" has a man in a business suit hanging by a noose from a dead tree at the top of a hill, with a horse walking away down the hill.

The Islands project has larger scenes.  While they still seem to be underwater snow scenes, we cannot see the container here, and there is more going on in each panorama.  The camera is inside the scene so the figures appear more distinct. Each snow scene has a small island or large area, featuring several figures – people or animals.  "A Winter Walk, 2006" has a old lady walking through a wood by a river.  She is has a walking cane and a bag, and is struggling up a path, while several other people swarm around her wearing white blankets over them as if they are pretending to be ghosts.  "Experiment with Red, 2007" has a group of black bulls killing one of themselves: the victim bull lies on his back with bright red blood coming out.  It's a dramatic scene in a wood with blue water in the foreground.  "The Cliff, 2006" which is also featured on the cover, has colorfully dressed people falling off a large rock, apparently to their deaths, into the sea.  It's not clear why they are falling: it may be due to a storm, or they may be jumping to their deaths.  Or they may be trying to fly: several of the figures are in pairs, and are holding hands, rising in the air above the rock. 

This is a striking collection of work, mostly amusing, but also a little sinister.  Given that we normally expect snow globes to be cheering and sweet, it is odd to see so much death and threat in these snow scenes.  They lend themselves to a narrative context, and there is a short story by Jonathan Lethem at the end of the book, but there's no temptation to read it, since the pictures are so much more evocative than the text.  The whole thing feels like a bit of a gimmick, but it is an impressive project nevertheless. 

 

 

Links:

·         Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz

·         Aperture

·         PPOW Islands page

 

 

© 2009 Christian Perring         

           

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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