Rantz’s (or Charles Strebor) photographic and digital art is a lush exploration of the intersection between the natural and the man-made. His use of technology is playful and distinctive and constantly references the beauty of the living world. A wonderful example of this juxtaposition is his Branchlings series in which images of branches set against sky are layered to create kaleidoscopic effects, both highlighting the organic forms themselves and the auteur behind the art.
Whilst his subject matter tends to be rooted in landscape he is a fierce lover of people and is working on a vast project in collaboration with individuals around the globe called Others’ Worlds.
A “series of interactive images”, it “came about when I was stitching together images to make an equirectangular image of a meatspace setting and I inadvertently mis-named three of the images and noticed that the equirectangular image that resulted from the mis-naming had an aesthetic that I appreciated and decided that I would need to explore this further.
“To date, I’ve created 55 of these worlds and I’m confident there will be more over the coming years. At some stage, I’d like to take this to a space where they can be projected on walls with a tech setup such that those in the space can interact with the images in three dimensions in a way similar to the way one can interact with them on various devices.” He has also created a tutorial to enable others to explore the techniques he uses at: Making Worlds <http://rantz.me/?p=5452>
Charles’ inspirations are surprising: “Though much of my work is imaged based, most of my inspirations are text or music based. William S. Burroughs and Laurie Anderson are two of the inspirations that have been with me since my teens – William as an early teen and Laurie later on.
“I’ve enjoyed all of William’s writings and I possibly enjoy his cut-up work the most. William is also the person through whom I found – and have developed – my addiction to the number 23. Whilst there are many who like to link 23s to myriad conspiracy theories, my interpretation is that you find what you’re looking for: and I’ve found a plethora of 23s over the years. In the late 90s, I created a list of 529 (23*23) factoids about the number 23. 23 of them were complete fabrications and I’ve found more than a few of them repeated on sites as fact when they were figments of my imagination. You find what you’re looking for – and it’s good to verify what you find before you repeat.
“With Laurie, I’m continually impressed with her performance and music as well as her thoughts on how and why she creates what she does. I’ve yet to tire of anything that she has produced and I’ve listened to many of her pieces hundreds and hundreds of times. From the earlier days of “Language is a Virus” to the more recent “Heart of a Dog”, I find new inspiration everytime I listen, watch, experience.”
He also takes his cues from people he knows and loves: “There are three other artistic inspirations in my life that are people that I know and cherish. The first of these is Javant Biarujia, a poet from Melbourne that I met in the mid-80s and I’ve maintained a friendship with him and his partner for 30 years now. Javant has is own language – Taneraic < http://taneraic.rantz.me> – and I created a website for his language in the late 90s and it is has evolved to not only contain lessons on Taneraic but also blog posts. I don’t understand the language at all – and I’ve no desire to do so. I do, however, much love hearing him read his language, including the poetry that he writes in it. The second of these is Julia Robertson, a friend that I met almost five years back. Julia is a brain cancer survivor, an artist, a student and she does much work in raising funds for various organisations working on finding a cure for brain cancer as well supporting those with brain cancer. I’ve dyed my beard purple < http://rantz.me/?p=4756> for one of her fundraising activities. The third of these is Paul Pavlinovich, who I met at the same time as I met Julia. Paul is a skilled photographer who is also skilled at sharing his knowledge about photography <http://photographersstudy.blogspot.com.au/> with anyone who cares to listen. He is also heavily involved in community work with the Scouts movement, abseiling and the Puffing Billy Railway. He’s become a good mate over the years and I’ve managed to pass on my love of fire spinning with him.”
A dedicated god father, Charles says: “I’m fortunate to have two of the most amazing boys in my life. My official title is Faerie Goddess Father though we tend to shorten that to god father for commoners. These boys are also inspirations in my life and I enjoy knowing that our relationship lets them know that it’s perfectly acceptable to be exactly as you are – you can be whatever kind of man you are.
“One of the things that I’ve learned from the lads is the importance of words: some years back, the elder lad had a new shirt. He asked me what I thought of it and I said, “I don’t like red”. He didn’t wear it for many months after I said that until one day I asked him why he hadn’t worn it. “You don’t like red,” he said. I then talked more about this and said that I don’t like red for me as it’s not one of the colours that I like and I told him that it looked great on him and he should wear it whenever he wanted. The next day, he had it on.
“The younger lad is quite the charmer and we spent plenty of time together doing boy things ranging from cooking (he’s going to be able to cook a complete three-course meal for me someday soon), making photos (he likes ‘random stuff’) or reading. Having read to the boys since before they could talk, it’s a wonderful thing that they can now read to me – and enjoy doing so.
One of the things that three of us enjoy doing together is going to the beach and playing with fire and LED lights to make long exposure photographs. It’s a most enjoyable activity and we get to talk about science, light, composition and having fun.”
His boundless love of people also finds expression through his intactivism: “I first became involved with the genital integrity movement – or intactivism – through a friend who was born intersex. My friend was born with ambiguous genitalia and the thinking of the time was that he needed to ‘fit in’. As such, his genitals were shaped into a vagina because that was the easy thing to do. As he grew, it became obvious to all concerned that he was a boy and this is how he identified. Unfortunately, the stress of living with medical decisions that were made on his behalf were too much and he took his own life in the mid 90s. Fortunately, thinking about intersex conditions has changed over the years and this practice is not standard everywhere. It still happens – but not all the time. Growing in my thinking about genital autonomy and bodily integrity, I’ve moved from being concerned with only intersex conditions to the rights of all people to not have their genitals cut without their consent. Whilst there is much justified activism around female genital mutilation, the activism around intersex and male genital mutilation is not as widely accepted in the wider world. This has changed and will keep changing until such a time as the genitals of those who cannot consent are not cut until such a time as the individual can make their own choices about their bodies and how they would like them to be.”
Rantz’s images are captivating and engrossing but his earnest and generous spirit is even more so. I will give the last word to him: “There is much stupidity in the world. Far too much. I don’t see this as being emblematic of an end of days – that’s far too negative a stance for me to have as I also see much beauty and hope in the world. Provided that multinational corporations and their puppet governments do not destroy our shared world through climate change or war, I believe that the human capacity to love, learn and live will lead us to a better world. I can only hope – and believe – that my faith in humanity as a good thing is correct.”