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In Simen Johan’s series “Until the Kingdom Comes,” we find an otherworldly crop of animals dropped into unfamiliar settings, where the humans appear to have expired.

As Johan describes below, his work blends traditional portraiture with digital techniques, obtaining animals from a variety of sources and dropping them into settings he has photographed elsewhere.

“Until the Kingdom Comes” will be on display at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, Nov. 3-Dec. 23, 2011. 

All images © Simen Johan, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.


Describe for us how this series began in your mind.

Simen Johan:

This work evolved over time as I experimented with different things. I never have a clear conception of an image or sculpture before I begin, but the final pieces I develop inevitably become decisive expressions of how I experience the world around me. The work echoes my curiosity about life—about our desires, fears, and darkest intuitions, and about consciousness as a whole, which might be the most familiar and mysterious aspect of our lives.


How does a photograph come together?


I photograph animals that live in zoos, farms, or nature preserves, or sometimes that have been taxidermied in museum dioramas, or found as road kill. I then situate them in settings that I have constructed from images I’ve photographed elsewhere.


Are you depicting a dystopian world? A post-human world?


Some images have a post-apocalyptic vibe to them, but it’s all open to interpretation. I like to evoke the future as uncertain—one that we dream will bring eternal bliss, yet fear will end in annihilation.


Going back to “Evidence of Things Unseen,” there’s often a lot of beauty living alongside brutality in your work. Is the world a terrifying place?


Our thoughts can be terrifying, but the world is evidently a friendly one or else it wouldn’t cater so well to our survival.

When working on an image, I strive to create tension and confuse the boundaries between opposing forces, such as beauty and brutality as you say, or the familiar and the otherworldly, the natural and the artificial, the amusing and the eerie. I often feel like I am attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable as I explore the paradoxical nature of existence, its simultaneous abundance of beauty and horror.


Do you find yourself motivated artistically by political events?


Not particularly. Politics is largely culture and time-specific and I’m interested in the things that are universal and inherent.


What are you working on now?


I’m always working on many things, and I’m never sure what they will turn into until they’re done.


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin