On Saturday, August 4th, Los Angeles native Alexandra Gibson will unveil a closely guarded and provocative new series of photographs that has been in the making since 2008. For Consumption Only is an emotional, visceral, and confrontational display of the flesh, both dead and alive, in close interaction with each other and with the viewer in a dance of the divine and the macabre. Artist's Statement
A year after my mother unexpectedly died, I travelled with my mentor, photography legend Mary Ellen Mark, into the hidden districts of Oaxaca, Mexico. I crossed over into the corners of a city that even locals have difficulty navigating. Yearning to literally face death with my art, and consumed by my mother’s sudden passing, I found myself compelled to photograph a local slaughterhouse. To visually capture the full severity of life and death.
The first series of shoots in the slaughterhouse, which happened in 2008, was an uncompromising examination of process and product. After almost a decade of shooting fine art erotica, my fascination with the slaughterhouse merged into my fascination with the human body. It was impossible for me to ignore this fact: the texture of pig is so similar to the texture of human.
So my initial compulsion to photograph the slaughterhouse production process quickly developed into an opportunity for powerful emotional interaction. It became a project that reached far beyond the journalistic scope of an essay on the production of meat; the series evolved into a discussion and a meditation on the fears, disgusts, and cultural barriers that surround the raw elements of death, and the tender vulnerability of the body’s life.
"For Consumption Only" aims to reinvent an often-dehumanized industry of flesh, fur, and bone. It offers confession to the basic terror of existence, and it requires all who participate, all who see it, to undress their own perceptions of survival and expiration. Described as “sometimes bizarre, sometimes beautiful – but always layered with deep psychological undertones” by Mary Ellen Mark, this series sets out to depict the dualities of mortality, without apology and regardless of taboo. Since the beginning of production, I was granted complete access by the slaughterhouse to investigate and shoot what I saw and heard. To unveil the layers of dialogue, curiosity and confusion embedded in the rhythms of life and death. In 2011, three years after my first shoot and still very much involved in the project, I returned to Oaxaca to take the work step further.
At the second installation of shoots, I spent ten days photographing nudes inside the slaughterhouse. Nudes with the pigs and the skins. With the drying hooks and the dark, stained walls. And in keeping with the project’s intention to reconcile with my own experiences of death, I stepped out from behind the camera, joined the tribe of models, and offered my own nude body to some of the photographs.
Ten days is a long time to be in a slaughterhouse. Day after day after day we listened to the unmistakable and unforgettable sounds of dying. We studied the rhythms of slaughterhouse workers for whom this relationship with death is diurnal. One day the local crew whistled at us from beyond the brick wall. They couldn’t see us, but they knew what we were doing: willingly drifting into a graveyard, still fresh with blood while fully nude and vulnerable.
The intent for the second shoot was to create a collision: this rarely revealed environment filled with death and execution interacting with the living, sensual, and strongly emotional human. The flesh for consumption with the flesh of the consumer. With "For Consumption Only" I am exploring and exposing the most fundamental verities of our existence, and showing what in our deepest bones we all know.
There is beauty in death.
Skotia Gallery 6144 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA90232