I| Part one: Practice
I.1| Chapter one: Photographic work, past and present
I.2| Chapter two: Video work, past and present
II| Part two: Relation to a larger context: This will be in more general terms about gay representation, gay artists and the gay sensibility in general
II|2 Chapter 3: The photographic medium and Wolfgang Tillmans
II|3 Chapter 4: Gay cinema and gay representation in film (from the American Underground to New Queer Cinema to present, I will mostly focus on the artists that I feel inspired by; Kenneth Anger, Gregg Araki etc.)
II|4 Chapter 5: Henrik Olessen (and his Warburgian research in gay representation in art)
In the first year of Piet Zwart I have been looking at LGBTQI related topics. I mostly did so from a subjective perspective using photography, and by looking into queer cinema. In the presentation of the second term I made clear that I wanted to make a stronger statement with my work and be more political.
Actually three lines of thought could be considered in my practice. Researching the photographic medium, but also the idea of 'seeing' in itself; developing a (gay) cinematic language of my own; and LGBTQI-related issues/identity. In the thesis I would like to further investigate on the above mentioned lines of thought and by doing so reflecting on my own practice.
In the first part I will show my past work, how this has developed and lead the reader towards my present work. In the second part I will discuss my interest in photography, gay cinema, a selection of gay artists, and how their ideas/work overlap or differentiate with mine. The latter part will be mainly focussed on how gays have been represented in the arts through a medium specific research in art photography and film. In the conclusion I will reflect and evaluate the process I made during the graduation year.
[Note: I am still mixing up the terms gay, queer and LGBTQI, I still have to decide which one it is going to be, because I am not sure if I want to dive too much into identity politics, but for now you can read it as either one of them even though there is a difference]
Part one, past and current work
Chapter 1: Photographic work, past and present:
Juxtapositions to trigger new ways of reading images
To understand my current methodology and work and the use of photographic imagery I have to look back at my previous graduation project. In 2012 I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht where I studied Visual Communication with photography as main focus.
For my graduation project I made an installation and photo book dummy with digital and analogue photo’s, incorporating self-portrait collages together with found footage from strangers’ family albums, microscopical images created in collaboration with a cancer research institute in Utrecht, pictures of the sun, the moon as well as abstracted images of taken in the surroundings of my own family’s home. =
Images from graduation project
The starting point for this project consisted out of the idea of de-baptization and photographing holy water under the microscope. I wanted to make a personal project about being raised religiously but being atheist and gay at the same time.
Following that I was studying authors like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. In their books, God is not Great and the God delusion, they deprive the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. Even though I agree on some of their views I decided to keep it personal. For this reason I went to my parents house to take photographs there. I started by taking pictures around my parents house in an abstracted form. This abstraction was necessary considering the fact that I did not want my work to become too sentimental. In order to still have an indicator of what these images actually represent, the following step comprised of looking for images in my collection of found family album photographs. I selected photographs where faces were obscured for any give reason. Simultaneously I created self-portraits visually inspired by photography from the 20s and 30s. These were digitally merged together with images taken from books concerning the universe, by doing so, obscuring my face to some extent. Again, to strengthen my argument, I created pictures of the sun and the moon, by juxtaposing these macro pictures with microscopic images, I literally zoomed in and out. In combining all these images together I tried to bring science, religion and my subjectivity together in a whole.
After Untitled 2012:
Before this I worked mostly in series but from this project onwards my photographic practice changed to mainly collecting different photographic images. From this point on, single images started to be less important to me than the overall combination of images. Through careful selection and combinations, I aim to create new analogies or connections between the different materials. When working with photographs, my methodology consists in arranging and rearranging my ‘collected’ images. Therefore my work should always be presented as a ‘table’ not as a ‘tableau’. The idea of the working table and the open possibility of changing the order of the images therefore also means that I do not work in fixed series or projects with my photographic images. This gives me a lot of freedom in what I photograph, which also means I have to be more selective in my curation.
Dissecting the table
Nevertheless what I have photographed has undergone slight changes throughout the following years. To give a better understanding how this has developed, I will dissect my tables below and divide my images in different categories.
Light and Sun Studies
The series Sun Studies (2012/2013) and Light Studies (2015/2016)
The first images of Sunstudies were actually created for my graduation exhibition, untitled (2012). In the time following I continued making these photographs. The images of Light studies were later created in my studio. My interest consisted in creating something that not necessarily would represent something but still would be a photographic image. Besides this experimental approach both series deal with the notion of registering something that we cannot see directly with our own eye, similar to microscopic images. In both series I used the camera as a tool to create images that are in a way still a direct fingerprint of our reality yet through certain technical choices, by for example using a pinhole camera and/or a long shutter time, become so abstracted that they only refer to abstraction and light itself.
Ting (2017), Steph (2016), Kalle (2017), Man with parrot (2015)
Even though I still sometimes make self-portraits my focus has shifted towards photographing people based on a certain desire to connect to them. What I never really considered, or necessarily intended, is that the people I photographed most of the time belonged to the LGBTQI community. First this manifested itself in making portraits of young men in the studio or on location, sometimes staged and partly undressed, sometimes spontaneously whenever I had a camera with me.
During the first year at the Piet Zwart Institute this developed consciously into photographing a bigger variety of people who belong to the same community. It entails a certain urgency to me for several reasons; first of all because I feel connected to this community, secondly to show a different way of living and expressing oneself in a still heteronormative, patriarchal, capitalist society. Thirdly because discrimination is still a big issue that I cannot comprehend how, and why.
Having this in mind I also went with a different mindset through my own archive. Pictures I never considered as work suddenly felt right to be included in one of my tables. Like the examples pictured below. The first two images are taken during a gay party where I used to photograph as a side job. The third picture is taken during an after party.
Safe space (2013), Party (2014), After party (2013)
Textures and surfaces
Scar (2017), Lavastones from Jeju (2016), Lines (2017), Blue hair (2015)
Another line throughout my photographic work are pictures of stones, skins, surfaces of shiny paper but also other subjects containing textures. These pictures are mostly taken from a close distance. Some are obviously constructed like such as the above pictures Lava Stones from Jeju and Lines, others are taken on a more spontaneous moment, like Scar and Blue Hair.
Altered images and the materiality of the photograph
Experimenting with the materiality of photography has always been part of my practice. I started with collages and subsequently developed with exploring a variety of different techniques or methods, as for instance Riso printing, ripping pictures apart, but also scanning while moving the image around.
There are three reasons for me to alter or intervene in my images. One is my interest in the photographic image itself, the second is creating desire through obscuring or distorting, the third is to give space to coincidences and give away some of my authorship over the image.
The photographic print here is important. In order to scan, rip, or make collages out of images one needs the actual printed (physical) imagery. Since images are nowadays mainly consumed online, one can sometimes forget about the tactility that images possess. This process is a reminder of the fact that the photograph can be and remains, in my opinion, an object in itself. For this reason I have made the personal decision to not print my works on materials such as dibond, since these hard shiny surfaces give photographs such a different feel and material quality.
Stitching it back together
First I print then I rearranging and select
How do these different types of images come together? I will answer this question with two examples. Recently I have had the opportunity to present my work in the context of two exhibitions. This resulted in two different site-specific installations.
The first show was the XXX-pride group exhibition at X-bank from the 30th of June 2017 till the 5th of September 2017 in Amsterdam. As the name suggests, the exhibition coincided with Amsterdam Pride. On view were a golden phallic needle suggesting penetration of skin (scar, 2017), body (back, 2018 and untitled, 2017) and surface (Lines ,2017). In addition images depicting body parts were displayed through images of a torso (Torso, 2016), an eye transplantation (Eye, 2015), and a liver (Liver of pancenzia, 2017). Lastly two abstract images were shown, namely Lightstudy #3 (2015) and Composition (2013).
sketch for the group exhibition at x-bank
In the context of the exhibition Intimacy op de Schans curated by Zippora Elders. I was commissioned to make an online exhibition page examining intimacy. The exhibition itself consisted in 4 solo shows of artists Aura Rosenberg, Hannah Perry, Cynthia Talmadge and Sam Contis. My contribution to the website resulted in a simple white online page which included a curated selection of my work and two hyperlinks (referring to the main website and my own portfolio page). While faces were hidden at the XXX-pride exhibition, this installations contained several portraits of LGBT people. They are accompanied by other images that try to strengthen a feeling of intimacy.
[Here comes the development of the graduation year]
Chapter two: Video, past and present work
Below you can find two video's of one of my first attempts exploring the cinematic language. Through the use of slowmotion, colorful lights, black and white, sounds of outerspace, and by not having any dialogues I try to conceive a mystical/uncanny atmosphere. You see a young man, partly undressed looking and laughing in front of the camera, while a glass of water is being poured in slowmotion and in reverse. The poring of the glass is partly based on a never finished film by Henri-George Clouzot, L’enfer. The story was about a man who is overly jealous. He imagines in terror that his wife Romy Schneider is a sort of nymphomaniac, cheating on him with men and women. The scene were she is poring the glass, is part of a hallucination the man experiences. Instead of a female leading role, there is a young man playing the part, the gender roles are swapped. Other influences came from Kenneth Anger’s films, the use of light, and the overlapping of images but also the homoerotic content.
The second video is a continuation and also has no narrative. In the short film you see a friend of mine, dressed up in his usual attire. While I lie on his lap, staring into the camera, he shaves of my hair. As I am performing in it myself, there is a more performative element to it. Unlike, Untitled 2017, this video not filmed in a professional studio. For this film I transformed my friend’s own apartment with the help of redhead lights and colorgels.
These two experiments will serve as a starting point for the project I mentioned in my project proposal. There I talk about the film The Love That Whirls made by Kenneth Anger which has never been seen by anyone. It contained nudity and therefore it was censored/destroyed by Kodak who at that time had a monopoly on developing film. [I will elaborate on this later.]
Part two, relation to a larger context
Chapter 3: The photographic medium and Wolfgang Tillmans
[excerpt: more to come later!]
The manner in which I think about the photograph as a fragment and how I present my photographs as a table relates directly to the work of Wolfgang Tillmans. As Shimizu writes in the book ‘the Truth Study Center’:"his part=whole relationship is characteristic of Tillmans. A sheet of photographic paper can act as a white wall and page, the relationship between the image and the margin can correspond to the balance of installation and layout, and equivalent qualities within a single work are projected as a constellation of several photographs onto pages and walls. […] They are not to be considered as compositions of separate units but as temporal and spacial developments of a single photograph.” (Shimizu, 2005, book has no page numbering?)
Wolfgang Tillmans work is built on the concept of “sameness” opposed to the concept of “identity”. This egalitarian way of thinking probably has it's background in his Lutheran upbringing. This concept of sameness translates itself in thinking in analogies: one thing is like another. An analogy. doesn't mean the same as a metaphor but as Kaja Silverman describes, “I am talking about the authorless and untranscendable similarities that structure Being, or what I will be calling “the world,” and that give everything the same ontological weight.” (Silverman, page 14).
Chapter 4: Gay cinema and gay representation in film
In the text, Homosexuality in films: Trends of Portrayal in Hollywood and Asia, the authors aim “to offer a systematic presentation of the portrayal of homosexuality in Hollywood and across different countries in Asia –– Japan, China and Hong Kong, India and the Phillipines –– to observe the converging and diverging trends over the years.” (Gayosa, p. 38)
In his text From the Bedroom to the Bijou: A secret history of American Gay Sex Cinema, Jack Stevenson talks about the history of gay sex cinema and equates this to the history of gay liberation itself. He looks at the journey that moved gay erotic cinema from the private to the public space.
In the book New Queer Cinema, B. Ruby Rich her writings on New Queer Cinema are brought together in one bundle. She has been writing about New Queer Cinema since it’s beginning, and this book gives an insightful look in queer film history.
Chapter 5: Henrik Olessen (and his Warburgian research in gay representation in art)
In one of his works/shows Henrik Olessen uses Warburgian methods to produce a homocentric genealogy of Western Art.
Chua, L.; Araki, G., (Fall, 1992), Profiles & positions: Gregg Araki (interview), BOMB, No. 41, pp. 26-28
Hart, K-P. R., (Spring 2003), Auteur/Bricoleur/Provocateur: Gregg Araki and Postpunk Style in The Doom Generation, Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 55, No.1, pp. 30-38
Moran, J.M., (1996), Gregg Araki: Guerilla Film-Maker for a Queer Generation, Film Quarterly , vol. 50, No. 1 (Autumn 1996), pp. 18–26, University of California Press
Doyle White, E. (2016), Lucifer Over Luxor: Archeology, Egyptology, and Occultism in Kenneth Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle, Presents pasts, 7(1), 2, p. 1-10
Gayoso, M. G. T.;Tan, J.;Mazumdar, S.;Liu, Q. (2009), Homosexuality in Films: Trends of Portrayal in Hollywood and Asia, Media Asia;36, 1; Business Premium Collection
Ruby Rich, B. (2013), New Queer Cinema, Duke University Press
Stevenson, J. (1997) From the Bedroom to the Bijou, A secret History of American Gay Sex Cinema, Film Quarterly, Vol.51, University of California Press
Still have to read or order or find these books:
Bronski, M. (2012), Queer History of the United States, Beacon Press (still waiting for delivery)
Schoonover, K.; Galt, R. (2015) Queer Cinema in the World, Duke University Press Durham and London (waiting for delivery)
Eaklor, V.L., (2011), Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century, The New Press (waiting for delivery)
Going here on nov. 18.:
Silverman, K. (2015), The miracle of analogy, Stanford University press
Discussion @ MoMa about exhibition "Ocean of Images" about the major changes in image culture in the past 30 years:
Dercon, C, Sainsbury, H, & Tillmans, H. (2017), Wolfgang Tillmans 2017, Tate publishing (catalogue of the tate exhibition)
Le Feuvre, L. (2007), Searching for Doubt, Foam magazine #13 searching, winter 2007
Shimizu, M. (2005), Wolfgang Tillmans: The Art of Equivalence (from the book, Wolfgang Tillmans truth study center), Taschen
Tillmans, W. (2012), Neue Welt, Taschen
Olly Alexander, growing up gay: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p057nfy7