The photographer experiments with absurdism by plugging a candle into a wall and a sim card into fruit.

By Madeline Brik.

Everyday items can be monotonous to the untrained eye. However for Can Sun, a photography student at the Royal College of Art, they’re an opportunity to unravel expectations. Sun’s “Nonsense” gallery is a series of still-life images that showcase reconfigurations of inconspicuous items such as apples, lighters, and candles to disrupt the commonplace.

Sun’s background is in absurdism, a style that has roots in existential philosophy. This school of thought focuses on questioning the nature and purpose of reality by observing the many paradoxes we encounter. Reflecting this framework, artists will incorporate concepts such as humor, ridicule, and inversion into their work to counteract deeply rooted beliefs to provide the audience with profound perspective. Sun’s art is inspired by other absurdist artists such as Mauricio Alejo, Erwin Wurm, and Richard Wentworth who reimagine daily objects to express intentional purposelessness, the core of existentialism.

Simply put, the process by which an object goes from ordinary to absurd requires “anti-convention,” Sun says in an email to Mission. Sun experiments with humor by sculpting items that can easily go unnoticed into bizarre attractions, such as a lit candle plugged into an electrical outlet, a carved apple with a sim-card installation, and a cactus belt. “Absurdity and humor are closely connected and humor is the best resistance to the nothingness of life,” explains Sun.

For Sun, the purpose of absurdity in art is to “express the spirit of this generation… we struggle with meaninglessness, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong.” By inserting a sim card into a red apple, Sun not only satirizes an infamous tech titan, but reveals the juxtaposition between nature and technology. It has been argued by scholars that technology is an existential catalyst due to its fundamental threat to human nature. The whimsical nature of Sun’s apple sculpture captures the dark satire embedded in existential thought.

“Nonsense” is just the beginning of Can Sun’s journey into the exploration of absurdism in his work. He is continuing to progress through his master’s degree and plans to continue breaking boundaries. “‘Absurdity’ and ‘reality’ are twin brothers, and I have another shooting project. In this project, I used a film machine to record my real life,” states Sun.

wip2021.rca.ac.uk/students/can-sun