Wild Dreaming: The Surreal Art of Flóra Borsi
A native of Budapest, Hungary, visual artist Flóra Borsi seeks to understand how dreaming exists in the modern world, questioning if the future has failed or succeeded at achieving that dream. Her photography speaks to both sides of the present, linking past and future, wildness and civilization, human and animal. As one of Adobe Photoshop’s 25 under 25 and face of Adobe in 2014, Borsi harnesses a surreal refinement that exhibits precision, sharp details, and wild color, connecting the viewer with the world outside the 9-to-5 job and the nose-to-the-grindstone mentality. Wild dreaming exists; Borsi asks us to remember how.
Using her self-portrait for many of her photos, Borsi’s work ranges from the surreal to the heartbreakingly relevant. Her series, “The Forgotten Dream,” portrays immigrants desperate for a new life in America. Braving the journey to Ellis Island, only to be turned away, these immigrants have been visually transported to the streets and towering skyscrapers of modern day New York. The question, Is this the dream you thought you’d pursue? resonates within each.
“Last year I visited Ellis Island and immediately had a bad feeling about that place. I knew approximately what happened in Ellis Island and lately I’ve been thinking about the likeness of current immigration reforms in the United States. It’s really sad what happened to many immigrants. Many of them died in Ellis Island while waiting and hoping for an opportunity for a new life. In this way, their dream came true. I created this project as a reminder and to commemorate the 3,500 people who died there.
Black and white images from the previous century are often forgotten, so I colorised them and retouched the damages to make them more connected to the present. The images are fictional; many people couldn’t even get into Manhattan or live in America.
Migration is an ongoing situation and the story of Ellis Island is still relevant nowadays. This is not history. This is today.”
In a time when immigration is a such a source of controversy in the United States, “The Forgotten Dream” shows both sides of the story. A dream many not be all that it promises. Problems still exist underneath the sweet idea of endless prosperity. Still, the dream allowed these people to gamble what they had for what they could be–once more linking the past with the future.
Her series “Detroit” accomplishes a similar task by bringing the social and cultural vibrancy of the Michigan city’s past into the turbulent and grungy streets of the present. “Detroit” exemplifies the city’s boom and bust, bringing together those who, in the midst of a boon, might never anticipate such a fall. Those in the midsts of a bust might never imagine what it was like to live in a time of prosperity.
In “Animeyed,” Borsi depicts a masquerade aesthetic where she places animals against her profile to suggest a hybrid perspective. She chooses smaller creatures crucial to an ecosystem — birds, squirrels, cats, fish, and reptiles — instead of large apex predators. Once more, Borsi attempts to show in tandem how removed we are from the world, while at the same time portraying that we will always be one and the same. Humans are still animals surrounded by the animal world — be it cats lurking in the streets, bunnies hiding in the fields, or small fish darting in a lake — even if those animals have now become our pets. Yet, if we look through eyes other than our own, what mysteries might be revealed?
At the same time, Borsi presents the mediocrity of “The Miserable Life of the French Toast Man,” a keyword-inspired series. Borsi transforms herself into the French Toast Man character and lets us view snippets of his life. Borsi’s wide eyes indicate a man scared to dream, but dream he does, afraid to push the boundaries of his life to experience the wonder of something new. Her previous ethereal aesthetic is tossed to the side in favor of day-to-day scenes, but it feels as if the French Toast Man is dreaming of the “Animeyed,” “The Forgotten Dream,” and how to make those thoughts a tangible creation that can be shared and enjoyed.