Mr Fremont has been challenging us with little mini projects to distract us but also in the hope these might feed into our major project too. This week the theme was Cardboard.
Due to a lack of models I decided to place myself in front of the camera so at least I had something to enter. The previous week’s submission had little to do with my major project so I wanted to incorporate that relationship this time. My Polaroids have all been around Masks / Masking so I found some cardboard that just happened to have Fragile tape on it which was ideal to create a mask. I wanted something animalistic, so found a cow skull template to cut the mask from. Using fairly high-key lighting, placing myself off-centre of the frame and with an awkward pose I created an image that I felt juxtaposed the ‘power’ of the nude male with some degree of vulnerability. On the one hand it is a simple visual statement; I am shy and vulnerable therefore I wear a mask stating my fragility. There are additional levels to be read within the image. My tattoos not only provide a counterpoint to vulnerability as a tattooed form is more traditionally associated with a strong and threatening persona; they also become an image within the image to be read as textual in them-self. There is the comment upon the objectifying male gaze being turned upon the patriarch himself and the power differential this creates. Also I am questioning whether the nude male can ever be considered vulnerable or defenceless; the penis has such a strong connotation of power that whenever it appears in an image it brings it’s own threatening strength. The model may be a poor example of an Adonis, but by displaying the penis like a weapon he is asserting his right to be part of the ruling patriarchy.
Feedback was positive. The shame of placing your body on display was mentioned along with the juxtaposition of pride; both in your own bodies appearance and as pride in being a gay man. Paul found the hiding of the face while displaying everything else to be interesting and the placing of myself in a corner further suggesting the vulnerability (cornered as in trapped). He suggested bringing the corner into more detail to accentuate it; in the manner of Irving Penn’s corner portraits. I would rather leave it as the subtle suggestion it is. Penn’s corner portraits are far more claustrophobic as they were done with a much more acute angle and the camera trapping the subject like a firing squad.
We were asked to research a gallery exhibition in which we felt our work could have taken part. The HE exhibition is a partnership between Queer Art Network, Balaclava.Q and Last Projects Gallery. The intent of the artists is to question and/or queer “masculinity” as defined by Patriarchal Euro-American culture. To undermine or ignore the dominant masculinity to address any “Crisis of Masculinity” and comment upon the reawakening of “toxic masculinities” as exampled by Trumpism, Brexit, and“Traditional” Family Values. As they state – “How can we accept new modes of performing ‘masculinity’—such as tender masculinities, femme masculinities, and queer masculinities—in a way that the very term “masculinity” may no longer be of any use or meaning?”. My Polaroid project would have fitted beautifully into the intent of the exhibition as it specifically deals with queer masculinity, body-image and shame in our sexuality.
As a broader research though we are asked to look into alternative ways to gain exposure for our final work. Part of my project is the exploration of how we hide our sexuality and how certain social situations can become awkward when you identify as non-heteronormative; therefore I wanted to use the politics of the penis on display to mirror this awkwardness in the general public. The full message of my work would be diluted if it were just shown within the gay community; ‘preaching to the converted’ springs to mind. Whereas I would like to display this discomfort to show the general population how we often feel. I need to explore what formats of exhibition might be available and work best for my practice. Internet is far too limiting; would a book be an option? As for my Polaroids I think of them in terms of an installation piece anyway.