Derived from a series of engravings depicting a "World Upside Down," which dates from at least the 16th century, collective AES+F reimagines contemporary life as absurdist scenes from the medieval carnival. Their video artwork Inverso Mundus, presented at NADA New York 2017 by Mobius and TRANSFER galleries, depicts a world built on the exchange of power, playing with stereotypes of human behavior.
In these surreal scenes, an obese pig disembowels a butcher, while beautiful women torture men trapped within IKEA-esque structures. Policemen and thieves turn violence into a joyful orgy scene, and children and seniors foment a generational clash via a kickboxing match. Chimeras of beasts merged with adorable house pets fly through the sky. The same cast of actors take on vastly different roles throughout the piece. One might play a beggar in one scene and lounge in an 18th century bed in bohemian clothing in another.
AES+F, formed in 1987, is a collective comprised of four Russian artists: Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladimir Fridkes. Known for creating visual narratives that reflect global principles, beliefs, and conflicts, the artists were inspired by the concept of turning the world of Inverso Mundus into one of social commotion and disorder. Its stories generally reference modern life, while sometimes directly representing the scenarios found in the medieval engravings. The very title of the project, Inverso Mundus translates from Italian and Latin to English as "reverse/poetry" and "world."
"We don't film scenes, we work with people separately. Thus, the product of our photo-shoots is a set of photographs of our characters that we animate and then compose in post production," Svyatsky tells Creators. A green screen functions as a fundamental part of AES+F's practice, in order to combine all the desired characters in one shot. "As a result, we can freely move inside of the virtual environment we have created during post-production. We can modify it by turning it around and changing the composition's perspective. The actual process of filmmaking happens during post-production," Svyatsky explains.
Torture and violence appear sufficiently peaceful, due to the overall aesthetic of the work. The characters' body language is languid; when coupled with smooth, slow movements and morphing techniques, they appear like non-humans existing in an upside down universe of exquisite phantasmagoric imagery. Each shot looks like a skillfully collaged composition.
Check out more work by AES+F on their website.