Cornelius de Bill Baboul’s latest project sees the Berlin-based artist ask and answer a simple question. What, he wondered, would happen if you let white flowers sit and stew in half-filled bottles of the sort of lurid energy drinks that men with seriously swollen arms clutch to their heavily-developed chests at the gym?
The result is Thirsty, then boosted, a series of almost absurdly saturated photographs. “I’d developed a visual fascination for those drinks,” Cornelius says when we ask about the origins of Thirsty, then boosted. “They look like everything but food. They are as artificial as their names, all called things like mountain blast and wild cherry.” Reminding the artist of “cooling liquid” he decided to play around with the properties and possibilities of soft drinks that intend to improve stamina and performance by sending God knows what coursing through the body of the person brave enough to imbibe them.
“I bought a bottle once, just to contemplate it. It sat in my studio for a while and one day I had a ranunculus lying about. So I put it in there to see what’d happen. The day after, it started to turn blue. It felt like writing Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal in the age of McDonalds. It was beautiful in a strange way.”
The artist, who was last featured on this very website after he published a "PeeHD in Peelosophy” back in 2017, took a rigorous approach to the project’s pre-production. “There’s been a lot of tests, trying to find the right flowers, they don’t all catch the colour in the same way,” Cornelius tells It’s Nice That. “I’ve been in contact with a botanist and he helped me to prepare the plants to optimise their colouration.”
When Cornelius sent us over the photos, we were slightly puzzled as to what he meant when he said that, “the results express a very contemporary and ambiguous feeling, a sort of optimistic spleen.” It turns out that an “optimistic spleen” is, in fact, a mixed state that arrives when one is affected by the negative aspects of an experience but possesses the innate understanding that someday, somehow, the doom will pass and a sense of optimism peeks through the darkness. “Imagine,” he says, “a party to celebrate the end of the world.”
While we’re not entirely sure if the bash we host when it looks like each and everyone of us is about to be engulfed in the flames of eternal damnation will feature bunches of flowers dipped deeply into bottles of Lucozade, but we can’t fault Cornelius de Bill Baboul’s optimism. Or his beguiling photographs.