Kyler Zeleny‘s photographs from ‘Ready, Set, Squat!!!’ set out on the same journey as the photographer Will Hartley, with both artists documenting their experience of living with squatters in London over a period of months. However, both take different paths. Hartley’s pictures a document on squatters in the city while Zeleny’s are a more intimate series of anti-aesthetic photographs that reflect a dissonance, a resistance to the logic of capitalist society and its obsession with accumulating an every increasing number of things. That they are squatters is happenstance. What seems to be more important is the attitude.
These photographs are unforced, immediate and in the moment. They deliberately rub against the grain of accepted aesthetics; the beautiful composition, the well lit face, the sumptuous colours. They do not want to make a glib comment on squatter life rather they want to subvert conventional beauty and the artifice of materialism by creating a narrative that flows against the tide of accepted behaviour in a society that keeps the majority in strict obeyance.
Taken with a €1 camera these pictures are less about the image than the meaning behind them. An undercurrent which can be found in much of Zeleny’s work. As a self named visual sociologist – who has studied both political science and sociology – he’s always looking to create a mix of documentary and experimental art through his projects all of which orbit around his fascination in found images, conscious/unconscious construction of ‘deviant cultures’ and alternative culture movements. To that end his work is an ongoing exploration of the margins, of the creative spaces left on the fringes of normalcy. Here’s what he has to say about ‘Ready, Set, Squat!!!’:
Squatters help construct a city that is not based on consumption or one that follows institutionalized aestheticism. Squatter’s views of aesthetics and aestheticism differs from that of the city populous at large, theirs is a culture that is unrefined, alternative, with a focus on creativity mainly through bricolage activities. This branch of squatting can be related to Western Marxism and the rise of Marxist Geography within the 1970’s. Generally, squatters do not belong to the upper class, they do not follow, what David Harvey calls, the excessive logics of accumulation like that of the city tourist; squatters locate or buy items out of necessity, refraining from buying items as symbols of wealth, power or prestige.