Transhuman Traits: Seeing Samy LaCrapule

Samy LaCrapule is a French artist and designer based in Paris. Taking inspiration from the transhumanist movement and future-oriented aesthetics, he primarily works in digital art and is a self-confessed screen addict. Spending almost all of his waking hours designing and creating during the lockdown, he recently gave an interview with Vogue Italia which shed light on his recent success and media exposure. Establishing himself as a name to be watched, his oeuvre is composed of both personally definitive work, and joint associations with labels like Louis Vuitton and Adidas.

Samy started life in the city he now lives in, but he traces his strongest influence to the internet. Wanting to use modelling software and computer-aided design like a painter with a paintbrush, his craft began with the discovery of photoshop when he was 11. The zany unrealness of photo-edited creations shows through in his current work. In an “SS2089” fashion show, he transplants luxury label prints onto skin surfaces. In this experimentation, the vision of fashion is changed. The project of creating aesthetics becomes not what is to be worn, but what is to be purely and only seen. The couture ideal is relocated from the canonical high-fashion runway and model to an impalpable and even more distant realm. In redistributing the ideological structure of what fashion is to achieve, LaCrapule extends the realm of design possibilities. Paradoxically, this virtual approach also allows the incontestable beauty of the idealised garment or human form appear much more honestly. Its unattainability is a permanent separation between its world and ours. Through this, he affirms the centrality of the real human gaze in art and fashion, and its power to create art itself.

Hermès girlz, Collaboration with Hermès, Samy La Crapule, 2019

His work, embodying a kind of diversity, also deals with a plethora of skin tones and ethnic representations. Although the trope of lithe and young bodies finds itself emerging in his work, it is nevertheless modulated with critical attention to, and rebuttal of, gender and cultural norms. Samy employs motifs from a range of cultures in clothing and vivifying his figures. Often, however, he makes his stylised humanoids appear bare-fleshed, and immaculate attention to detail comes out. Every follicle pore and freckle seems to be crafted onto the girls of the Exhibition Mag cover, the tightness of a muscle or tendon emerging beneath shaded skin.

Some of Samy’s creations, like the SS21 digital campaign for Daily Paper, make us realise how far digital tools and representation have come. Over the past few years, technology has come in leaps and bounds, particularly on the consumer side where the cutting edge is often least accessible. The animation and modelling tools available to moneyed professionals have, in stages, been gradually moving into the mainstream, allowing young artists to experiment with their creativity using the virtual interfaces that they are used to. Whereas for the nineteenth-century artist, the paintbrush and pencil were all were available, physical art has continued to be popular today, whilst the digital has blossomed. The beautiful ripples of the royal gown, and sweeping shots of the immaterial camera, are a testament to the aesthetic heights that can be reached without so much as a particle of pigment.

LaCrapule shows his love of attention to detail on the work he did for the rapper Booba’s digital album cover. The dark and rich tones of the sculptural decapitated horse’s head at its centre shine through. Veins and poetic wrinkles are interwoven between expanses of smooth and richly saturated flesh. But this is a kind of flesh that is twice removed from touch. By working with a subject that is not immediately real – the bronze sculpture is, after all, an artistic interpretation of the real thing – he exposes himself to interesting critical issues. Where is the essential aspect of what he shows us to be found? This double repetition of removal from the immediate “subject”, the horse, is a powerful dialogue on the misperception of art as revealing some deeper aspect of reality.

AFTER THE SWIM, Samy La Crapule, 2020

What his cyber-styled bodies and skin-becoming clothes have in common with this piece is a rejection of realism, a school of thought and artistic style which aims to turn the picture into a window, simulating the visible of a scene as if it is right before us. The great irony of Samy’s creative projects is that they seem to play against this using the very simulation of the real which realism lays claim to. Samy’s work appears flesh-like, doused in light and shadow and form like palpable objects that lay before us. Yet LaCrapule rejects the narrative of the essential, underlying aspect, all the same, choosing for his subject matter in these artistic excursions mythical, unencounterable figures. The horse’s flesh may be felt with imaginary hands, but it is not the flesh of a horse we have ever encountered.

ENTER THE KINGDOM, Samy La Crapule, 2020

Samy tells little about his personal life in his interviews and through his online presence, but his work speaks volumes and if anything explains this withdrawal. What is foregrounded for him is the creative acts he has performed, the countless hours and energy that must have gone into fashioning out of an algorithmic background the beauty of a post-human body or the delicate drape of a skirt. In presenting outwardly this vision for a virtual future, LaCrapule is telling a very modern narrative. Not only does his undying dedication to the digital tell of a new level of technological immersion, but also of a radical rejection of art as representation. We find beauty in the beautiful; not in the real. Through digital art, Samy discovers a world of his own.

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