Embrace Your Shadow: A Talk with Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant
by Elizabeth Mealey
“We don’t need another fucking picture of a hand. Kill me!” This is how Keanu Reeves, coauthor of the new art book Shadows with Alexandra Grant, laughingly described their editing process. As the two friends chatted about their work and took questions from a packed audience at NeueHouse Madison Square on Tuesday, it was easy to see why they became collaborators: they feed off each other’s energy. The book, a meditation on physical and symbolic shadows, is a true collaboration, with Grant’s images depicting Reeve’s shadow captured in motion, and Reeve’s poems scrawled in Grant’s handwriting on opposite pages.
Shadows is actually the second collaborative book that Reeves and Grant have published together with Steidl, the first being Ode to Happiness, which, featuring texts such as “I wash my hair with regret shampoo” and “Then I put on my alone again pajamas,” is anything but. The new book follows in a similar vein, with poems by Reeves such as, “I was born twisted/I don’t want to die,” and “It is my last/chance.” This work feels less tongue-and-cheek, though both artists seem intent on keeping its meaning open to interpretation. In response to the question what is your shadow? Reeves responded, “Is fear tied to shadow? Yes. But shadow is also pretty cool…you can make rabbits.”
From the playfulness of shadow puppets to the darkness of Jungian psychology, Reeves says, “It’s about acceptance of the shadow, in all it’s implications—in color,” referring both to the vibrant and varied interpretations of shadow present in the book, as well as the literal colors in the images, which, in Grant’s words, include “Wild acid hues…purples…and 70’s porn rust.”
Ultimately, Grant says, the book is “Exploring darkness with a wicked sense of humor…and a little hopefulness.”
“Yeah....hopefulness...” Reeves teases, “Good luck.”