About the 2021 Collection
During confinement I had to seek the erotic somewhere else. What had been subversive was now illegal, dangerous. There was no safe sex version of shooting erotic photography during lockdown, and the prospect of shooting myself or my partner, after mutual interactive overdose, became an uninspiring prospect. It was my first year in Paris - the city of sensual indulgence was a town of masked ghosts and sanitizer.
So for 7 months, my Paris was supermarket isles and pet stores. What made me feel the naughtiest was the candy. Entire isles of it. A fifth of the “express” super markets in the 10th arrondissement were dedicated to plastic packs of corn syrup dressed up into different shapes and symbols, promising indulgent satisfaction with every bag of gelatin. During the 6pm-curfew days, markets were packed rushing to close on time. The lines in the markets inevitably wound through the candy isle, torturing the onlookers. It’s all any of us did outside: get groceries and avoid eating together and too many sweets.
The 1km radius restriction on movements led to another challenge - how to create an “essential” need to bike beyond the borders. Pets! The pet store was beyond this radius, and so, like a daily fugitive, I drafted a few required statements to leave my house during lockdown—the attestations—that needed to include my address, where I was going, the time I left the house and when I would be back. Since we were only permitted an hour outside a day, I would make sure to write 3 different ones for a 3 hour trip, with each paper neatly tucked into different pockets with different start times.
I’m not a cat or dog person, two little kids satisfy my need to care for mammals. After considering an iguana (too much room required), a chameleon (too anxious looking), and a turtle (too boring), I settled on a series of beetles and praying mantises. By the end of 2020, we had 10 different mantis species, many of which needed to be fed living flies by hand during infancy. I settled into the months of confinement, with an endless supply of subject matter: quasi-domesticated insects and the available remnants of French “cuisine," the Haribo candies.
Information Relevant to the 2021 Collection
The final printed sculptural form of the photographs rebel against the roots of their creation: during the dark Paris winter of Covid-induced confinement and nightly curfew. The images demanded to break free, to be unconfined. The 2021 collection is printed large, meant only to be displayed in public spaces, and grandiose private dwellings. Enjoyed at superhuman scale, the surreal nature of the microscopic details reveal their secrets and surprises calling forth a remembrance of indulgence beyond the gastronomic.
From images to digital photographs
Each millimeter of the subjects were captured at intense care and magnification. The time intensive process represented days of work for the studio, ideal for the confinement purgatory. I designed and built specialized mechanical rigs so that each millimeter could be a composite sourced from hundreds of ultra high-resolution frames. Hyperrealism became my way to indulge our eyes starved by monotony.
From (digital) photograph to light sculpture
But the creation process was not complete. In a time when all pleasures had been digital the images could only thrive in the physical world. The digital had lost its sexiness; I had not. Standard printing techniques further flattened the work. To complete my vision I added a physical dimension, light design. We created light palettes specific to each image that complete the final image. Each final work is thus its own photographic light sculpture.
Additional Technical Information
Merritt has been on the forefront of digital art photography for over two decades. In this time she has sought ways of preserving the authenticity and genuinity of art pieces produced fully in digital without succumbing to the pitfalls of reproducability--after all every digital print is reproducible, but the first and real print's authenticity can remain uncompromised.
With ArtCoin (R) Merritt is able to secure the essential value of digital art. ArtCoin is a cryptographic encryption unique to an art piece. With every limited reproduction the encryption guarantees transparency of ownership. Captured both in crypto (digital) form and a physical RF signature on the back of each print, ArtCoin is a time-proof security for digital artwork. The prints also include a tendered certificate of ownership. ArtCoin also enables the art collectors to prove genuine ownership and enable transfer without question of verifiability.
About the Artist
Natacha Merritt (b. 1977, San Francisco) is an artist, writer and biologist. At age 20, her intimate and explicit series of portraits and self-portraits documenting her sexual history caused a sensation when she published them on her website www.natacha-merritt.com. Her first book, Digital-Diaries (2000, Taschen), an erotic exploration at the dawn of the digital era, quickly became a critically acclaimed international best-seller, selling hundreds of thousands of copies and was featured in publications as diverse as The Observer, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone. She spoke at conferences as diverse as Ars Electronica on Next Sex: Sex in the Age of Procreative Superfluousness and the design conference AGideas. In 2000 she starred, shot and edited D-life (heralded as one of the first Internet reality miniseries) in collaboration with Heavy.com (later picked up by Warner Bros).
From 2003-2004, Merritt was invited to be one of the creators for the Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity (NYNY Hotel and Casino), an exploration of sensuality and peak human performance, for which she created large-scale multimedia projections from erotic images she had captured of the performers.
In 2008 she wrote an ‘insect circus’ inspired by her observations of the insect world and celebrating the importance of biodiversity. She licensed the rights to Cirque du Soleil and the circus became OVO, still touring.
Her most recent photo book, “Sexual Selection” a comparative artistic study of sex in the human, plant and insect worlds was released in May 2012. The work incorporates scientific insights with her artistic practice unveiling an untapped sexual beauty and eroticism hidden within all species. She took the theme of Sexual Selection further by using 3D printing technologies to create never before seen sculptures of spider erections (2013).
Her most recent projects include being creative director of a live fetish arts performance, and the founder of Permission® productions and Rides®.