Anouk Kruithof, Trans Human Nature

JTF (just the facts): Self-published in 2021 (here). Softcover (24 x 32 cm), 96 pages, with 99 color photographs. Includes 1 folded poster (64×96 cm), and texts by Mathilde Roman. In an edition of 500 copies. Book concept and design by Doris Boerman and the artist. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Anouk Kruithof is an innovative, interdisciplinary visual artist, whose practice mixes a wide range of tools, both in the digital and physical realms: photography, performance, video, installation, and websites. Her projects have often brought urgent social issues into the spotlight, including government surveillance, global warming, and privacy. She has also explored different aspects of cultural identity and self expression; her current installation “Universal Tongue” looks at dance through a range of histories and cultures, bringing together hours of videos (collected from YouTube and Instagram) and showing some 1000 different dance styles. Over the years, Kruithof has published roughly a dozen risk-taking photobooks, covering a range of topics and using various design approaches.

Kruithof’s most recent artist publication, titled Trans Human Nature, shares “the story of a personal traversal and an artistic exploration.” The project was inspired by her time in Botopasi, a small village (with a population of just under a thousand inhabitants) in the middle of the mostly untouched Amazon rainforest in Suriname (a former Dutch colony, which gained its independence in 1975). Kruithof decided to build a house in that village, and ultimately, tried to live her life there in symbiosis with nature and the local community. Sharing her experience of living there, she notes that “in Botopasi, there are no shops, there is no road – vegetables have to be sent from the city – and there is only three hours of electricity a day. It is a very original, very natural life.”

In Trans Human Nature, Kruithof uses photography to reflect on the connections between ecology and technology, presenting globalization and technological progress as both dividing and unifying. Trans Human Nature is a softcover publication with a plastic dust jacket. The title of the book appears on the jacket in white letters, in all capitals; the artist’s name is also placed on it, however, it is almost invisible (as though she has disappeared). Inside, the photographs vary in their sizes and placement on the pages, creating a dynamic visual flow. The book has an open spine and easily lays flat. At the end, the publication also contains shots of the associated exhibition installation, along with thumbnails and captions that provide additional information about the images.

For this project, Kruithof selected stock images that represent the technological future (many of them showing humanoid robots) and printed them on flexible materials like PVC plastics, various fabrics, and silk. Then, she inserted them in various locations around the Amazon jungle and the Suriname river, producing bizarre, interconnected realities. All of the photographs in Trans Human Nature were created without any digital manipulation, and using only the available surroundings. Kruithof carefully constructs and directs her photographs as she immerses the prints in the river, carries them with her on hikes, or hides them in the greenery of the jungle. She “merges the spirit and strength of the Amazon’s jungle nature with next level intelligence of trans-human life”, reads the text in the description of the project.

These futuristic ghosts, embedded in the environment, form – both foreign and harmonious strange – hybrids with nature. One of the photographs shows a face of a humanoid robot submerged under calm water; it is titled “Aquatronic”. Another full spread captures a pinching bionic hand photographed underneath a surface covered with drops of water. These images also relate to the process of self-transformation. A number of spreads pair close ups of leaves with text, and one of them asks, “What happens to becoming stone, to becoming plant?” The image of leaves titled “Code Green” appears next to a representation of digital codes, making unexpected connections between the two worlds.

Repeatedly, the fragmented faces of robots appear in the dense untouched greenery of the jungle. In another image titled “Where are the Black Bots?”, the head of a Black man hides behind a green leaf with holes for his eyes – his presence is easy to miss – and on the left is a close up of a leaf, showing its texture dotted with various holes. One of the last images in the series shows a woman walking in the water, wearing a light almost transparent outfit with a printed face of a humanoid robot.

As her career has developed, Kruithof has continued to blur boundaries – blending reality and fantasy together, mixing imagery with sculpture, and creating layered visual narratives. In these recent works, she suggests that the relationship between humans and machines is not as separate as it may seem, and should be analyzed as in-between. She also recognizes that life in the remote region of Suriname has fundamentally changed her, “I have become aware of the fact that I want to relate my work to that life, to how we are all responsible for the future of the earth and of us as humanity.” As a next step, Kruithof plans to turn the wooden house that she built in the village of Botopasi into an artist’s residency.

Collector’s POV: Anouk Kruithof is represented by Galerie Valeria Cetraro in Paris (here) and Casemore Kirkeby in San Francisco (here). Her work has not yet found its way to the secondary markets, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in the following up.

Leave a Comment