Monday, October 12, 2009

Truly Inspiring: Michael Wolf

German-born author and artist Michael Wolf was raised and educated in the United States and has been living in Hong Kong for 15 years, a decade of which he has spent as a photographer. Wolf's work focuses on vernacular culture, particularly Chinese culture. His projects range from thought-provoking portraits to grand-scale gallery installments that beckon the introspection of society as a whole.

What first caught my eye was Wolf's 100x100 collection. For this project, Wolf photographed residents living in Hong Kong's oldest housing project, Shep Kip Mei, where each living space measured 10 x 10 feet. I was eager to peer into each room to see how individuality played a role in conceptualizing the limited space. After viewing a handful of photographs, I was left speechless. Instead of mind-numbingly satisfying my voyeuristic eye, I was left wondering: What personal possessions would I [be able to] keep if I only had 100 square feet?

Other projects by Wolf serve a similar slice humble pie. One such installment titled The Real Toy Story, consists of 16 images of Chinese toy factory workers surrounded by 16,000 plastic toys. The result: a powerful juxtaposition of imagery that invokes morality.

For this exhibit, Wolf scoured thrift shops in California for toys (all of which were made in China); sanded the back of each toy; glued several magnets to each toy back (45,000 magnets total); installed 30 large panels of sheet metal to a gallery wall; and covered the wall with the toys. It took three people working 10 hours daily for three days to attach all of the toys to the walls.

What impresses me most about Wolf's work is the level of dedication to his craft. Both projects were simple ideas which he took to a impressively higher realm. Seeing projects of this magnitude inspire me to conjure grand-scale ideas of my own which I hope will one day impact others as much as Wolf's work has impacted me.

More information about Wolf and his work can be found in this interview or on his website.