Selected by Unseen Platform
‘Too Familiar To Ignore, Too Different To Tolerate’ tackles the entanglement of myths surrounding the climate crisis. Norwegian artist Christian Tunge began the project after discovering that, despite the catastrophising rumours circulated by the media, bees are not facing extinction. In truth, it is only commercially farmed honey bees that have been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder – the native wild bees that are most important for the environment are not affected by this crisis at all. This revelation led Tunge to consider what other “fake news” stories have been generated from half-truths by those with ulterior motives. The resulting series of photographs has been transposed from book to gallery, making it his most comprehensive project to date.
Under the guise of commercial photography, ‘Too Familiar’ uses bright, staged shots to explore the relationship between humans and the environment. Symbolism is integral to Tunge’s work, and in this series honey bees are used as a departure point from which other topics are also addressed. ‘I use the honey bees and their environment as a framework to speak about some bigger issues I’m interested in’.
Vivid and saturated with colour, Tunge juxtaposes imagery in his photographs with the underlying theme of climate change. In one image, bees swarm a VHS glazed in honey; the tape ominously titled ‘The World Is Not Enough’. In another, a dark-skinned hand playfully waves a toy plane, mimicking flight against a backdrop of trees. Is this a comment on the aviation industry’s contribution to climate change, or perhaps a critique of globalisation? A woman’s hand drips with a clear liquid (is it honey?), her manicure complementing the deep red hue of a bouquet of roses from another image. Tunge alludes to the fraught connection between man and nature, or does he instead raise the issue of food waste as an ecological issue? The artist does not provide an explanation.
For Tunge, this is how the medium of photography can serve as a vehicle for complex artistic expression, allowing for a symbiosis of subject matter, symbolism and cultural references. In doing so, the images are left open to interpretation, and allow the viewer to draw their own connections. ‘The work confronts us with subjects and themes, which are hard to ignore, and asks us, in turn, if we can tolerate our own response.’
Text by Jenny Willcock, Unseen Platform