"For the Starns, the six-sided nature of snow crystals appears less important than the ways in which the flakes hover between one state and another. As they are being photographed, they are in a process of alteration from solid to liquid, from organized form in space to aqueous blob on a surface, and thus suggest a transitiveness that photography, as a medium devoted to stilling the moment, would seem to contradict. Similarly, as was true of the pictures of leaf veins and tree branches, light seems not so much to shine on the snowflakes as it shines through them. Instead of appearing as specimens, in the manner of 19th-century scientific observation, the snowflakes are objects of transformation. Few of the Starns' snowflakes are models of perfection, and in this they remind one of finding starfish and seashells scoured by the tides and left to dry on sandy beaches. Many have parts missing, or they have all their detailed armatures on one side but not the other. Here again, the Starns' images exceed the aesthetic register of the catalog. Unlike industrial structures, or manmade devices, imperfection is an essential part of their beauty and poignancy. Here is material evidence of the Starns' interest in the phenomenological character of the natural world, cast into being against the certitude of our own impermanence. The photographs speak of the fragile delicacy of our ever-warming world while being themselves a visual bulwark against despair, and they draw us, like moths to light, to the pleasures of sight that but for the camera would exceed the human eye." —Excerpt from Andy Grundberg's introduction in alleverythingthatisyou (catalogue published by the Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden 2007)
Mike + Doug Starn
Doug and Mike Starn, American artists, identical twins, born 1961. First having received international attention at the 1987 Whitney Biennial, for more than 20 years the Starns were primarily known for working conceptually with photography, and are concerned largely with chaos, interconnection and interdependence. Over the past two and half decades, they have continued to defy categorization, effectively combining traditionally separate disciplines such as photography, sculpture, architecture-most notably their series Big Bambú.
Commissioned for the Naoshima Museum (July 2013) and the Setouchi Triennial on the island of Teshima-Japan-, the fifth installment in the Big Bambú series utilizes and comprises an entire bamboo forest. A path through the bamboo forest leads to a Bambú walkway tied directly to the living stalks and winds its way up through the forest until ultimately breaking through the surface of the canopy of bamboo leaves. A large fishing boat- 70’ long-made entirely of Bambú floats on the canopy sea at over 60 feet high. The view out from the boat shows the waves of bamboo leaves flowing in the breeze with the Inland Seto Sea and a neighboring island in the distance.
Curated by Francesco Bonami, the first semi-permanent Big Bambú installation opened in late 2012, and is in the collection of the Museo MACRO Testaccio, Rome. Over 130 feet tall, a habitable sculpture with capacity of 60 people with an elevated performance space, double helix stair and labyrinth paths leading up to multiple lounging spaces at 65 feet high with views over the banks of the Tiber and Trastevere to Monte Testaccio. In 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale Big Bambú spiraled over 70 feet high behind the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal. The acclaimed institutional premiere Big Bambú: You Can't, You Don't, and You Won't Stop, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010 was the 9th most attended exhibition in the museum’s history with 3,913 visitors per day- with a total of 631,000. Throughout the 6-month exhibit, the Starns and their crew of 12 rock climbers continuously lashed together over 7,000 bamboo poles, a performative architecture of randomly interconnected vectors forming a section of a seascape with a 20-meter cresting wave above Central Park. Big Bambú suggests the complexity and energy of an ever-growing and changing living organism. Several new iterations of the series are being developed internationally.
Gravity of Light, a solo exhibition by the Starn brothers featuring eight monumental photographs illuminated by a single, blindingly bright carbon arc lamp, originally commissioned by the Färgfabriken Kunsthalle, Stockholm, Sweden, took its third incarnation with the Cincinnati Art Museum in the fall of 2012 at a cavernous deconsecrated church and was dovetailed by an eponymous monograph, which offers a comprehensive approach on the artists’ Absorption of Light concept, published by Rizzoli, 2012.
In the spring of 2009, the Starns completed their first permanently installed public commission for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. See it split, see it change, a 250-foot long artwork, up to 14 feet in height, presents the artists’ iconic tree photographs and a leaf transposed into fused glass, marble mosaics and a water jet cut stainless steel fence punctuate the South Ferry subway terminal. It is the recipient of the 2009 Brendan Gill Prize.
At their mammoth laboratory studio in Beacon, New York, the former Tallix foundry, the Starns continue to build the first Big Bambú, a constantly evolving construction, formed by a network of more than 2,500 bamboo poles lashed together. This enormous studio allows Doug and Mike to work in dialogue between Big Bambú and their many concurrent series: most recently The No Mind Not Thinks No Things and other Buddhist explorations- the Absorption of Light concept, alleverythingthatisyou- their photomicrographs of snow crystals, and their re-exploration of the late 19th century color carbon printing process. Through their carbon-prints, the Starns mingle gilding techniques to the painterly photo-process, and further advance their metaphorical lexicon on light with photographs of Buddhist statuary.
Attracted to Light, To Find God, not the Devil’s Insides and alleverythingthatisyou are some of the Starns’ monographic publications. The brothers are currently preparing a new artist book based on their iconic photograph of Ganjin and Big Bambú.
The Starns were represented by Leo Castelli from 1989 until his death in 1999. Their art has been the object of numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide. The Starns have received many honors including two National Endowment for the Arts Grants in 1987 and 1995; The International Center for Photography’s Infinity Award for Fine Art Photography in 1992; and, artists in residency at NASA in the mid-nineties. They have received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Dagens Nyheter, Corriere della Sera, Le Figaro, The Times (London), Art in America, and Artforum amongst many other notable media. Major artworks by the Starns are represented in public and private collections including: The Museum of Modern Art (NYC); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, (NYC); The Jewish Museum, (NYC); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); Moderna Museet (Stockholm); The National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne); Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC); Yokohama Museum of Art (Japan); La Bibliotèque Nationale (Paris); La Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, amongst many others.