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Jon Burgerman: Head Shots

The artist uses NYC subway advertisements for improvisational gory, humor and awareness

by David Graver in Culture on 29 January 2014

BurgermanHeadShots-01.jpg

With lambent wit, awareness and a desire to question the materials that cross our collective path on a daily basis, one of CH's favorite artists, Jon Burgerman, has debuted a new photo series on his website, titled Head Shots. In a way, it's a continuation of his previous Korean Subway project; modifying surroundings in a simple way, while yielding a dramatic impact. Each project cites a goal "to make one aware of, question, investigate and re-connect with our environment," Burgerman explains to CH. With Head Shots, Burgerman staged scenes in front of graphic, violent NYC subway and other transit-based advertisements. The effect is both jarring and entertaining, and it certainly makes viewers think twice as the meaning behind it unfurls.

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"With each reoccurring high-profile tragedy in the US involving shootings, I find myself being evermore paranoid and vigilant when I leave my apartment—my senses attuned to seeking out and avoiding any potential trouble," the artist says. It was this acute awareness and concern that ultimately inspired the series. "Whilst on the look out for guns and violence in general, I've noticed there are some very obvious threats right under our noses, in plain view, for everyone to see. How have we missed these? Who are these people aiming at?" With guns and arrows pointed at viewers, Burgerman thought it would interesting to add himself "into the suggested scenes and complete the compositions to their natural conclusions." It changes the scene and the mood entirely: There he stands, the victim of advertising and the subject of a fictional attack.

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While Burgerman has garnered a lot of acclaim for his illustrations, he notes that, "I'm not strictly an illustrator, although my work definitely does exist in that world. I'm an artist and if I have an idea for a project I'll do it, whether a drawing is involved or not." While this project is illustration-free, it does coincide with a major through-line to his artistic interests. "In this case, it's a further exploration of what I would call a 'quiet intervention,' where subtle, often cheap, nonpermanent actions drastically (and sometimes comically) alter the reading of a signifier, object or situation." He plans to continue along this series, while exploring the many other ideas that he has circulating. "Once you start to view your surroundings in a slightly skewed way your perspective in general changes. I want to continue doing that and entice others to do the same." Head Shots is enticing and powerful. Burgerman found a way to subvert an everyday interaction by completing it—as both the creator and the victim.

View the series to date on Burgerman's website.

Images courtesy of Jon Burgerman

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