Slurb is a single-‐channel video by artist Marina Zurkow made in 2009. This work was commissioned by the City of Tampa and was originally exhibited as an installation for Lights on Tampa Biennial Festival. The video appeared as a roughly 18-‐minute loop blending animals, people, and cityscapes floating in disarray amid an open ocean. Jellyfish drift just under the water’s surface throughout the animation while people and wolf-‐headed humans tread water in small boats and sinking cars. The video also displays images of mermaids, giant dragonflies, and roaming crocodiles. Zurkow sets a dystopian scene by juxtaposing different artistic styles. In electric hues, she crossfades cartoon sketches and woodcut prints with video footage. It is accompanied by ambient sci-‐fi sounds completing its somber and mystical tone. The timing of the work is inspired by Chinese handscrolls with one continuous scene being revealed piece by piece. Lee Webster of …might be good describes the movement:
“Slurb’s endless loop is reminiscent of the repeated imagery of this past decade’s 24-‐hour news feed. The action gently rises and falls sometimes lulling you into a bewildered immobility and other times churning your stomach with the uncomfortable realization that is is all actually happening while you’re just sitting there.” Webster, Lee (2010, May 21) Marina Zurkow Women and Their Work, Austin
Zurkow’s work acts as a commentary on our Earth’s future amongst climate change, an avid theme in her artistic practice. She describes her work as making “psychological, animated narratives about humans and their relationship to animals, plants, and the weather.” The word “slurb” is a combination of “slum” and “suburb” giving direct focus to Florida and its potentially flooded and ruinous future state. By weaving dark whimsical animations with factual outcomes of climate change, Zurkow creates narratives that draw viewers in and surprisingly hit home. Katy Gray of BOMB Magazine says of the artist:
“She is an artist looking for trouble, good trouble. Her humor and intelligence, along with a healthy attitude towards our inevitable demise, allow her to navigate those who might otherwise be unwilling toward uncomfortable yet important conversations.” Gray, Katy (2011, May 12) Art: Interview, Marina Zurkow by Katy Gray
Although the nearly 18-‐minute loop is no longer available, the 6-‐minute excerpt still feels rich and dense. The combination of vibrant colors in a post-‐apocalyptic setting feels fresh and allows the experience to be easily entered and not quickly dismissed as dark or depressing. Watching the work is mesmerizing. One gets lost following the drift of a different character or object as each scene of the scrolling video unfolds. The subtle, quick moving lines of the sketched animations keeps the wallowing tide from becoming too static in its movements. I can’t help but put myself in the scene and question how I’d keep myself afloat or what life would be like.
The Poster Children and its remix called Heroes of the Revolution by Zurkow have many similarities to Slurb. They are all a part of a series Zurkow created called “Crossing the Waters,” which addresses humanity’s relationship with the ocean. The Poster Children / Heroes of the Revolution have a scrolling movement, but with a diptych and polyptych format. The imagery is of people and animals floating on the surface of the arctic ocean. Despite these close similarities in subject matter, the two works have vastly different apocalyptic feels. The remixed pair is a war zone consumed in violence and starvation. Arctic glaciers serve as bomb shelters for both people and polar bears. The bears are seen swimming through the waters searching for food. Unclothed people are seen shivering and starving on the floating ice. In addition, we see polar bears eating bloody flesh and people firing machine guns. This apocalyptic world is anarchic, which is quite different from Slurb. In Slurb, we feel a community trying to survive a disaster that seems to have hit fairly recently. Together, the characters are figuring out how to move forward and survive. The Poster Children and Heroes of the Revolution feel as if the world has decayed. We are seeing a glimpse of many years or even decades after populations have perished. People and animals are sparse in these animations and each are racing the ticking clock of extinction.
Molly Schwartz, another environmental animator, created a work called Bellyfull of Eels, which was included in The Nature of Cities exhibition along with Slurb at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. Both artists mix multiple animation styles into one unique blend and master a slow and steady scrolling movement between scenes. Schwartz’s work also has a scientific origin, but does not speculate as Zurkow’s work does. It follows the biological lifecycle of river eels from larval to full grown fish. It also has a different approach to animation. The work includes hand-‐drawn animations like Slurb, but also includes claymation, puppets, and generative Processing animations. Bellyful of Eels is also two-‐fold. The second part of her exhibit at The Nature of Cities is an interactive installation that creates a digital eel nursery. Eels generated in Processing grow in response to human voice, specifically singing. The animations are projected through a large petri-‐like dish. Both Zurkow and Schwartz create commentary on humans and their interactions with earth, but in vastly different ways.
Slurb was part of the following exhibitions:
· Lights on Tampa Biennial Festival Bruce Wolkowitz Gallery
· SIGGRAPH Asia
· Shortlist, Future of Everything Award
· Tempestad, Yaku Museum
· Bennington College, Usdan Gallery
· The Nature of Cities, United Nations Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo, (Art Works for Change)
· Women and their Work
· We Write This To You From The Distant Future, Digital Art @ Google / The Project Room for New Media at Chelsea Art Museum
· Legion Arts
· Friends, Enemies, and Others, Montclair Art Museum
· NARRACJE -‐ Installations and Interventions in Public Space