Oranges and pineapples rise up from the breakfast table, Lunchables float tantalizingly just out of reach, Chinese takeout spills over a telephone: welcome to artiste duo Alex Wallbaum et Aleia Murawski’s strange still lifes, where even the most mundane objects feel surreal.
Wallbaum and Murawski’s images conjure up an otherworldly universe existing on a different technological timeline, where computers still feel alien, phones are enormous, and screensavers are windows into mysterious digital worlds. These images are more than just meditations on 90s nostalgia, though. They’re surreal in the proper sense of the term, bringing, as pioneering artist André Breton put it, “the contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality.”
Wallbaum and Murawski’s dreamy images often look totally unreal, but the pair set up their photos in a real-life Chicago studio. Sometimes the two painstakingly suspend objects in mid-air for a perfectly planned image, as if seeing “the final shot floating in front of us,” Wallbaum told Creep magazine.
Some of the duo’s more intricate images are a bit reminiscent of those wildly detailed I Spy books that were so popular in the 90s. The longer you look, the more interesting details and unexpected textures appear.
Odd items (a heart-shaped bowl of SpaghettiOs, an alien landscape on a computer screen, a lurid romance novel) paired with everyday things (a basketball, pretzels, a can of PBR) create the sense that there’s an unexplained, and deeply weird, story floating behind the pictures.
“A lot of what we do is about everyday objects and how we can push them slightly out of the ordinary,” Murawski said, adding that her and Wallbaum’s work always aims “to take these objects and situations that we are so accustomed to, and flip them on their heads.”