Turning into a Parrot


Annette Kelm ( German, 1975 )

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General Description

Turning into a Parrot (2003) depicts a gloved arm reaching into the picture plane from the right, upon which rests a large red parrot before a lush tropical backdrop of jade plants and palm trees. In this work artist Annette Kelm makes a deadpan, self-reflexive nod to the photographic medium’s earliest perceived function—the act of rote reproduction. To “parrot” is to repeat something mindlessly and mechanically, to duplicate or mimic without understanding—much like the photographic apparatus itself. In an oblique manner, Kelm also seems to reference art history’s longstanding tradition of quoting and/or recycling image types and symbols with the parrot itself embodying the act of imitation.

Kelm is best known for her still life images that feature lush patterned backdrops and heavily saturated colors [2016.16.1, 2016.16.3]. Typically the fabric backgrounds serve to mask and/or eliminate the horizon line in her photographs, radically flattening the composition. Scale becomes difficult to recognize, and the space one is accustomed to finding in the photograph transforms. Kelm's works appear to follow conventional forms of the photographic tradition, featuring still lifes, portraits, and landscapes, for example. But at the same time, she undermines the promise of objectivity by adding elements that seem surreal or subjective.

Adapted from

Gabriel Ritter, DMA unpublished material, 2016.