Design is not always literal: it is interpretive and often imaginative, with the ability to inspire us while redefining the meaning of space and time. And that’s only part of what can be accomplished when artists creatively blend digital technology with an eye to reimagine existing spaces.
In their installation ‘The Wild Within’, Dutch-Canadian artist / photographer Ryan Koopmans and Swedish digital artist / photographer Alice Wexell take this type of creative re-imagining to the next level by blending past and present through a combination of digital and physics, breathe new life into abandoned Soviet-era architecture.
The project began when the creative duo visited the Georgian town of Tskaltubo, taking photographs over a span of several years of the many ruins that exist throughout the region. Inspired by the shattered and shattered remains that now replace luxury and splendor, the duo collaborated to create a new vision: “a surreal collision between the past and the future”.
The abandoned buildings, left in various states of disrepair and decay, provided the perfect backdrop for the two artists. Using their combined experience in the digital art world, the duo juxtaposed the vibrant greens of nature with the austere but austere remains of buildings that have not seen life since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The town of Tskaltubo was once a bustling destination known for its healing waters and luxurious health spas. The buildings now left to rot and corrode were once vast and glorious peons representing the greatest wealth and influence of the Soviet Union at the height of its power. Abandoned since the 1980s, they have been left to decay and collapse – a somewhat apt, if not cruel, metaphor.
Thanks to Koopmans and Wexell, these spaces are being renewed thanks to the magic of modern technology. By creating animated images of lush greenery and bright flowers and cleverly integrating them into existing architecture, the duo have created something new and beautiful. The photos literally come to life, turning into haunting, surreal videos and a stark reminder of how man-made structures can be abandoned while still giving new life through their return to nature.
The project is ambitious but prescient, as some of the sites have since been demolished in real life. But the nostalgia-inducing video series will continue to exist as a testament to the beauty that can be found even in the ruins of ancient grandeur. Koopmans hopes the works will create “a sense of surreal tranquility while making reference to themes of urban exploration, architectural history and the resurgence of nature.” This video series certainly does just that, as it poignantly reflects how nature reclaims what is hers long after man has abandoned it.
Seeing the breeze gently flow through the greenery and make its way through the once splendid and magnificent architecture is a bittersweet experience. Yet it reminds us once again of the power of design and its ability to transform our environment, sometimes even to reclaim what has been abandoned or lost.