"attraction!" by Patrick Van der Elst
This photo is from 2015, one could say in tempore non suspecto, like an anticipation of what is happening to us now.
There is, in the search for a certain coquetry symbolised here by the fact of matching the gas mask to this lady’s toilet, a strange sensation that arises. Two contradictory feelings.
On the one hand, an impression of great futility, an absurd attitude, a sort of denial of reality: how can one care about one’s aesthetic appearance when the world seems to be running to its ruin and the air has become unbreathable? It seems vain, meaningless.
But there is also a wonder, a surprise to see this lady trying to restore or save a little beauty and poetry in the middle of this chaos.
Let’s forget all these complex definitions of catharsis and just keep this one: an emotion that leads to a positive change in the person’s life.
From a botanical point of view, flowers, symbols of purity and chastity, are in fact sexual organs, the pistil corresponding to the female organ and the stamen to the male organ. The pollen is a kind of flying spermatozoon.
In front of a fresco inspired by Douanier Rousseau, I tried to create a luxuriant and exuberant nature and then I integrated sapiens. In a way, I relocate him back in the place he had gradually abandoned.
“Look me in the eyes”
this is what you ask of the child you want to be sincere and not to hide a lie, or when you are about to express yourself with total sincerity.
The eyes as a direct path to the self, to the intimate, the secret, the hidden. That’s what this young girl does, she looks us straight in the eye.
But there are all these other eyes stuck all over her body. Is it precisely there that we cannot help but put our eyes? Is this a warning from the girl? Leave my body, my nudity, my sensuality out of it. Or is it exactly the opposite idea. Put your eyes all over me.
Who is looking at whom?
As you look at this young woman, 8 pairs of eyes are fixed on you.
Yet, no expression, no feeling comes through those eyes. They are neutral. They do not tell you or express anything, any more than a camera would. But you know they are looking at you.
A look is something else, it takes the shape of the eyelid, the tears, the position of the eyebrow, the contraction of the skin muscles, the appearance of wrinkles and frowns, imperceptible movements to create depth and emotion. There is a whole reading of a multitude of information that allows us to read and exchange a look.
How do we look when we know we are being looked at? Would I have the same feeling if I looked at the same photo without all those eyes?
Obviously, the nudity is important, as is the fact that her eyes are closed. I wanted her to appear to be at our mercy.
The panopticon is a type of prison architecture from the late 18th century that allowed a single guard, housed in a central tower, to watch all the prisoners without them knowing if they were being watched. This was done in order to create the feeling of being constantly watched.
From an architectural model, the panopticon has become a political and behavioural device in which the watched, thinking they are being watched from all sides, integrate the norm of good behaviour.
In “reverse panopticon”, there is only one person being watched, facing a multitude of watchers, and therefore a multitude of norms.
Perhaps we are all that young woman who is vainly trying to preserve her privacy.
Little music in the background
Every square inch has been covered with newspaper, from the floor to the wall, on the tractor and the boy’s clothes.
Nothing has been left to chance, the articles have been carefully chosen, cut out, mainly from the “people” press and English tabloids, and then glued as wallpaper.
You can have fun trying to read, I defy you to find anything that would make the little boy smile, that would make him dream, envisage a bright future, gain confidence in the world to come, make him want to take part in this human comedy.
This ugliness had to cover even the child’s clothes and toys, because I believe that it percolates to the very heart of their imagination.
I believe strongly in him, in his dreams, I think he will end up painting everything as he imagined it.
Don’t ask me if she’s about to swallow them all, all of them, to make a mouthful of them, or if she’s just given birth to them with a creative breath, generated in an infinite series by a divine power. Monstrous ogre or creative goddess. I won’t help you.
I like that she can be one or the other, both, as beautiful as monstrous. May this unstable balance persist before the tip over.
There are 94 of them!
I know because it took me 3 days to hang them up one by one to try and make them look like a dress or anything that would dress the woman on top.
94 so that no one could ever imagine that they were her babies.
Unless it’s about her potential offspring, all the babies she’ll never have.
Or it could be a family tree of ten generations.
In front of this crawling pyramid, you lose the notion of individuality a little, it remains only a colony; I would remove one that you would not even perceive.
Or do as I do, pick one and have your heart set on it. Or two, or three.
Then decide what to do with the others.
The swimming lesson in which a swarm of vinyl babies, whose end is not visible, swim in organized rows behind their probable mother.
It is a scene of wild animal life, of newborns barely born and already busy swimming, trying to survive in the face of the harsh and implacable law of natural selection, following the nurturing mother confident that numbers will allow the survival of a few.
But this is all wrong, of course, since there is the reassuring presence of these stairs as evidence of a controlled world. This is an urban, contemporary place, not a wilderness.
And there will be no selection, welcome to the protected and secure world of the human being.
I waited for snow all winter, I wanted a slightly desolate and cold landscape. It finally fell one late afternoon, a few minutes before dark, just enough time to rush to the park and enjoy the last moments of clarity.
She had to look like she was about to leave this cold and hostile place for a warm and happy place, with a determined step, without any ulterior motives or melancholy, with her whole future under her arm.
I want to believe that something or someone is waiting for her beyond the right of the picture, something unexpected, a little crazy, full of colours, ready to take her away from the norm, from routine, from boredom. The exodus from the lands of spleen to radiant moments.
A selfie stick colonised by countless eyes as many spectators.
The attention diverted from the master’s painting to one’s own image. The staging of the self. The search for the dopamine boost in the thumbs-up generation.
Is all this just a harmless game or is there a real ego hypertrophy? Is it a symptom of the birth of a tyrant individual or one of the causes of the progressive disappearance of a common world?
Don’t count, I did it for you, there are 254.
254 latex gloves, like so many hands that dress a young woman’s body, support her, wrap her, carry her, caress her, embrace her, lift her or protect her. Choose one.
Mostly known for its role in childbirth and breastfeeding, oxytocin is also thought to play a role in pleasure, attachment and empathy. Hence its reputation as the happiness hormone.
Under the caress, the world sometimes disappears and nothing else exists but the other. And to help you imagine this, I have left only the essentials: the red hair, the slightly pink skin and an infinite number of delicate amber hands.
The Enslavement series (cabinet of curiosity)
This series is not exhaustive, I think it could be declined again and again, so many possibilities of subjection seem to me.
Perhaps this is too frontal, too reductive? But that’s precisely how I wanted it.
To essentialize the woman by reducing her to her tattooed sex or mixed with various contexts evocative of situations of subjugation.
This picture was made by my wife, my oldest son and me. It is a chicken wire structure that I had modelled to look like a vulva.
I had picked about 1500 wild daisies. They wilted so quickly that I had to call on them to help me set all these flowers into the structure.
So it is a vulva, that seems obvious. It is amazing to read the plethora of comments mentioning a vagina. Is this indicative of the poor overall knowledge of female anatomy?
All those flowers whose implantation conjure up the image of a vulva are themselves sexual organs of the plant world. So it is a simple implicit analogy between two beauties. I wanted to try to talk about the vulva in another field than anatomy or pornography.
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