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Art of darkness: apocalypse, death and disaster in contemporary art: continued

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T.V. Santosh

Counting Down reflects on the horror of Hiroshima through the recollections of Yoshitaka Kawamoto, a survivor of the atomic blast who was thirteen at the time.

TV Santosh: Apocalypse in contemporary art

In Santosh's installation, a group of thirty chrome dogs are arranged in a grid, sentries guarding Kawamoto's words which slowly scroll in three digitised displays at their feet.

The dogs conflate various beliefs and mythologies associating the animal with death.

In the Hinduism of Santosh's native India, the dog is seen as a messenger of Yama, the god of death, and guard the doors to Heaven.

The ancient Egyptians depicted Anubis, guide and protector of the dead, with a jackal or dog's head, while the great dog Amt stood sentry at the gate to the lower world. Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Greek myth, guarded the entrance to hell.

On the back of each of Santosh's dogs an electronic clock performs a silent, never-ending countdown, the flickering red digits reeling perpetually towards unspecified calamity.


Dominique Gonzalez- Foerster

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: apocalypse in art

TH.2058, a large-scale installation commissioned for the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2008, envisages London in the grip of future disaster.

Set in the year 2058, rows of two hundred steel bunk beds transform the space into a shelter reminiscent of those provided by the city's underground stations during World War II. The exact nature of the crisis is never revealed, but on each bed a crumpled paperback outlines a possible scenario, from H. G. Wells's 'Day of the Triffids' to J. G. Ballard's 'The Drowned World'. The sound of torrential rain is relayed through speakers.

More obliquely, reproductions of well-known artworks resized by 25 per cent - most notably, Alexander Calder's flamingo and a Louise Bourgeois spider - also dominate the space. Perhaps the fact that these appear to represent super-sized animal life provides some kind of clue as to the notional fate of the outside world.

Nevertheless, Gonzalez-Foerster is less interested in pinning down events than collating possibilities. Her shelter is inhabited not only by the ghosts of future inhabitants, but by three hundred different visions of the apocalyptic in written form.


Kris Kuksi

Apocalypse in contemporary art: Kris Kuksi

Baroque, bizarre and astonishing in their detail, Kris Kuksi's intricate models and three-dimensional reliefs envisage a post-apocalyptic world in which "new beginnings, new wars, new philosophies, and new endings" replace our own, jaded civilisations.

While Kuksi's practice show all the hallmarks of classic outsider art - a highly personal vision and minute, labour-intensive execution - his work is starting to attract attention across a wide range of artistic circles.


Kris Kuksi: Apocalypse in contemporary art

Employing a cultural mash-up of visual referents from Gothic and global religion to ornate neo-classicism, Kuksi melds his sources into a wildly extravagant pastiche.

Fascinated by 'the old world', the artist incorporates its vestiges into the compelling curiosities that constitute his vision of the future.


Andres Serrano

Death in contemporary art: Andres Serrano - Suicide by rat Poison

Serrano's 1992 series of photographs The Morgue provide an intense and unflinchingly immediate view of death.

The series is both disturbing and fascinating, addressing inevitable curiosity regarding human mortality, yet also targeting deeply felt fears - the unknowability of fate and our general reluctance to confront death's reality.

By cropping his images to focus on specific details, Serrano amplifies our sense of proximity to the corpse while simultaneously hiding it from view. Combining objectivity with the artistry of rigorous composition, these works are as dignified as the subject matter can possibly allow.

Andres Serrano, Death by Stabbing

Ricky Allman

Apocalypse in contemporary art

Allmann's work is a meditation on the possibility of Apocalypse and the factors that could contribute to such a calamity.

Religious fundamentalism, environmental destruction and human greed are all symbolically referenced in his paintings, many of which also depict aspects of the Biblical Doomsday he was taught to believe in as a child.

Other works, however, suggest that finality is not inevitable, but rather a vital issue of balance and restraint.

The artist vacillates between hope, doubt, and even various notions of Apocalypse. Whether regarded as irrefutable prophecy or avoidable possibility, Allman's body of work presents a visual tipping point. Sooner or later, the chaotic potential he depicts will simply have to resolve itself.

Apocalypse in art: Ricky Allmann

Chapman Brothers

Much of Jake and Dinos Chapman's work to date has been described as apocalyptic in its vision.

From mutant mannequins to sculptural representations of Goya's Atrocities of War , death, disaster and chaos are constant themes in the brothers' output.

Apocalypse and death in contemporary art: Chapman Brothers

Fucking Hell (2007) - a re-make of an earlier work destroyed in an art warehouse fire - is a highly detailed group of scale models depicting a ravaged, war-torn landscape.

While its title points to a literal representation of the underworld, the piece is equally a metaphor for the most brutal episodes in human history.

Rampaging factions of tiny mutant soldiers systematically murder, pillage and torture, the gruesome nature of their deeds as much an evocation of Armageddon as Hell itself.

Yet the soldiers wear Nazi uniforms in reference to the very real horrors of the Holocaust and Second World War - or, indeed, any of the many conflicts that blight both our past and present.

The torments depicted in Fucking Hell are both mythic and rooted in precedent, a grotesque amalgam of allegory and fact. Apocalypse is not just a future prophesy, but a reflection of the human capacity to create its own hell.

Chapman brothers: Fucking Hell, detail

Thomas Hirschhorn

Thomas Hirschhorn, Launderette, death and disaster in art

For over a decade Hirschhorn's highly charged political practice has focused extensively on atrocity and death.

In the ironically named installation Launderette, documentary footage of appalling brutality is revealed through the portholes of mocked-up commercial washing machines. Such crimes, Hirschhorn insists, are stains that cannot simply be washed away and ignored.

The incidents shown in Launderette take place in various parts of the world, but in recent years Hirschhorn has focused on war in Iraq, strewing his installations with gruesome photographs of badly disfigured corpses.

Death and apocalypse in contemporary art: thomas Hirschhorn

Hirschhorn is an intensely cerebral artist and despite his work's genuine capacity to shock, there is nothing gratuitous about his depiction of violence and death.

Such images are rarely seen by most audiences, and Hirschhorn unflinchingly makes these central to his practice in order to reveal the appalling realities of war.


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