By Chloé Harper Gold
Have you ever had those dreams where you’re in a familiar place that’s just off somehow? Like you’re in the hallway of your high school and the lockers are made of wet floral foam. Or you’re in your own house and there’s a neon green monitor lizard hanging out on the La-Z-Boy and you only think it’s weird because you don’t remember buying the La-Z-Boy. Or you’re in your local subway station and instead of the usual platform floor made from concrete and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, you’re standing on grass and feeling wildflowers brush against your ankles.
Ryan Koopmans, the artist behind “The Wild Within,” is a master of this liminality, and he’s back with another dreamy NFT art series that depicts human-made environments taken over by natural plant life. While “The Wild Within” focused on abandoned Soviet-era buildings in Georgia, “Tunnel Vision” takes place in the underground metro stations in Stockholm, Sweden.
It’s taking some of the same ideas and themes from “The Wild Within,” but applying it to a more contemporary and slightly different—but still human-made—environment. It looks at the relationship between the natural worlds and the artificial worlds and the nuances, the paradoxes, and sometimes the dynamic relationship between the two and how they interact.Ryan Koopmans
Born in the Netherlands and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Koopmans moved to New York after completing university at the Vancouver campus of University of British Columbia. He went to grad school at The School of Visual Arts where he earned his Masters of Fine Art in Photography, Video & Related Media in 2012. Two years later, he packed up and traveled the world as a professional photographer before settling in Stockholm, where his creative collaborator, Swedish artist Alice Wexell, also lives.
The two of us combined forces to create “The Wild Within,” which combined photographic documentary content with 3D elements and brought everything together into a new multimedia form of presentation. It took several years of going back and forth to this town in Georgia and learning about the social and cultural history and the political history, and building contacts and giving back to the local people and local society and building a long-term relationship with them.Ryan Koopmans
Koopmans collaborated with Wexell on “Tunnel Vision,” too. The first work in the series, “Rush Hour,” depicts a pair of escalators leading in and out of a metro station. The station’s floor is an overgrowth of greenery; moss climbs the staircase between the escalators and ivy drapes over the hanging signs.
The fiery red “ceiling” of the station isn’t really a ceiling at all; it looks more like an opening into another realm. Despite the wall-to-wall plants, the red opening gives the entire piece an ominous feeling. Almost like a descent into the Inferno, only in reverse.
“A hundred percent,” Koopmans laughs. “I was speaking to someone the other day, a collector, and that was their exact reading as well: an ascent into hell. With this project, we’re creating uncanny environments. They may be meditative or relaxing, but there’s an uncertainty about what the mood is.”
It’s worth noting that the station in “Rush Hour” is based upon an actual metro station in Stockholm—all of the works in “Tunnel Vision” are based on real metro stations. “Rush Hour” is a manipulated photo of the famous Solna Centrum station. The plant life is not really there; the ceiling, however, is.
The Stockholm metro system is built into the bedrock. It’s like a cave. The red, the yellow, the blue, the orange…it’s all natural stone that’s been manipulated a bit. Smoothed out. The reason we went for such a strong, saturated color was to further emphasize this relationship between the natural and the artificial. This project is really about the paradoxes and the opposites: typically when you go up from underground, the foliage would be on the ground on the upper level. Everything [in “Tunnel Vision”] is flipped.Ryan Koopmans
“And it’s a constant cycle of ascending and descending to reference the cyclical nature of the public transportation system,” he continues, referring to the animation aspects of the works in the series. “The trains are constantly going on this endless loop and the escalators are also going on this constant up and down cycle.”
There’s another paradox in the series that Koopmans points out: the industrial setting that humans carved into the natural earth combined with the plant life that has been digitally added.
Koopmans explained that each work in “Tunnel Vision” (and also in “The Wild Within”) began as a regular 2D photograph. He and Wexell also shot video footage of each space. Then, they combined them to make a 3D environment using a special 3D software. The entire innovative process for each work would eventually yield a video that was 2D but with 3D rendered elements. Each work is also set to music created specifically for this series by Swedish composers Tobias Hellkvist and Erik Thomé.
“It’s like a multimedia collage,” Koopmans says.
Three other works in “Tunnel Vision”—“Habitat,” “Horizon,” and “Machine”—feature escalators. The only one that doesn’t depict a floor overtaken with foliage is “Horizon;” instead, the floor is flooded with rippling, pulsing water. “Everlasting” and “Transcendence” show us the actual trains. The train in “Everlasting” even stops and opens the doors before going back in the same direction from which it came. In each work in “Tunnel Vision,” the plants—grass, flowers, and saplings—move and flutter, as if there was a natural breeze, a constant flow of air in the underground metro.
The series is both trippy and relaxing, whimsical and jarring. The environments presented are simultaneously alluring and foreboding. It’s folklore encased in science fiction…or the opposite. Maybe even both at the same time. Koopmans aimed to play with contradictions—each installment in the series draws the viewer in and traps them there.
The first work of the series, “Rush Hour,” is now available to view on SuperRare.