Turning Instruction Into Art

How The Drab Can Create The Disturbing

What is so ironic about Vaka Valo’s series, Dream Diary, is that one of the mediums the artist uses in his creations is one of the least dreamy of all: instructional manuals. For this ongoing series the illustrator sorts through thousands of manuals, extracting segments and scanning them into his computer where he creates the final pieces digitally. Once stretched and printed onto large canvases, Vaka does the final touch-ups by hand.

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Though the series does exude a dream-like quality it is not freed from the drab, clinical colours of it’s origin: how-to guides, health and safety booklets and trouble shooting documents. This adds a sinister edge to Vaka’s series – the images are muted and not the bright colours and that we so often associated with dream work work. Instead they are the sort of dream that we wake from at 4am, in a hazy limbo between reality and imagination, questioning our own subconscious.

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Animal heads on human bodies, skeletons loitering in the background and human faces on every-day equipment contribute to this ominous quality. They serve to create an uncanny atmosphere: Freud’s way of describing that which feels at once familiar and unfamiliar and leaves us feeling rather unsettled. Like staring into the eyes of a meticulously porcelain doll and holding our breaths, though we know it’s silly, feeling that they are on the edge of blinking back. And the faces in the series do just that: they are often expressionless and detached from their bodies, yet they still emit some emotion – they still call to us, our minds cannot disconnect from humanity.

Disturbing and oddly macabre, Vaka’s series is the kind that, if all art came with it’s own soundtrack, would be accompanied by distorted music box music.

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