Bestiary is the product of Koen’s long fascination with Greek mythology and early 19th Century photography. Based on a set of mostly hybrid creature descriptions and influenced by religious iconography, myth comes full circle and meets social criticism by molding these monstrous archetypes into contemporary commentary. Most importantly, in this series, the beasts are separated from their usually singular dimension, assuming complex, tragic personalities in which monsters and heroes become difficult to tell apart.
Drawing from the vast pictorial collection of the US Library of Congress, these characters possess the hunting qualities of early photography, when subjects were not camera-savvy and their awe for technology was etched in their expression as, to a certain degree, their souls were captured by the lens. Their photos became psychological portraits way before the digital intervention made them supernatural. This deformed pantheon combines widely known mythical protagonists with more obscure characters from the depths of ancient Greek sources.
Bestiaries are traditionally catalogs where the natural history notes and illustration of beasts is usually accompanied by a moral lesson and this one is no different
Robert Graves’s 1955 tome, The Greek Myths, provided the core resource on the characters, and it illuminated these fascinating tales that were known to Koen only of in their overly sanitized versions from his school years in Greece. The human, sexual, and violent dimensions of the beasts described in his texts re-sparked Koen’s interest in the subject and deeply inspired his images and symbols.
Viktor Koen’s Bestiary was previously presented at the United Photo Industries, New York.