Vulnerability is the universal but also sensitive theme of my work.
During my training in the performing arts my fascination for open, real contact came into being. Moreover, an important condition is to be able to be vulnerable and small. A colour that should be seen on our palette, especially for men. The desire for that, my quest, has become the theme of my work. I portray human beings and create sculptural studies according to attitude. For a longer period I work quite intensively with a number of people. (Mutual) confidence is the result of entering into such a relationship, which enables me to come closer and to apply various ways in which to work. An often occurring way to work is to enact an action such as falling or turning. In this way the outlines of their consciousness will fade and they will exhibit themselves to me in a way that images are originating.
STATE OF IDENTITY
Over the years many intellectuals have struggled to understand and define the notion of identity. Is identity rigid or more fluid? Does such a thing as a man or a woman exists, or do these labels just serve the purpose of maintaining social order. What if you happened to be born in the wrong body and you have no choice but to confront your initial gender identity. In the series State of Identity the artist portrays those who are in search of their gender identity and are in the process of physical transition. In quest of answer the artist registers in a respectful manner doubts and uncertainties of these young people who literally and figuratively expose themselves for the first time. In doing so he removes them from their daily lives and photographs them in a monochrome setting. Closer to the source is hardly possible. Just as in his earlier work he establishes a bond through working with them over a long period.
Ecce homo- Behold the man. Self-reliance, independency, in a way ‘invulnerability’ are important values in our modern day society and that is reflected in the way we appreciate the human body: it
should be healthy, young, fit, strong. Those are the images that we are usually confronted with. But how do we relate to people who aren’t able to come along, for example because they suffer from exclusion, poverty, addiction? Vulnerability has become an almost unbearable phenomenon, the Achilles heel of our achievement-oriented society. That raises the question: what is vulnerability still worth in our society? Does vulnerability mean weakness, or is this exactly where we find our common humanity? Are we really different from the people we consider to be vulnerable? Can the ‘losers’ count on our compassion and acceptance? What are the necessary conditions for living a meaningful life, for all of us? And finally: How can we, together, create a new, joint and connected story?
I create portraits and sculptural studies of body and posture. For this series, I followed men who have come to falter for several reasons and who are considered ‘unprofitable’ by society. By working intensively with the people I portrait for a longer period of time, I get to know them, gain their trust and try to show them in all of their humanity and complexity; their strength, vulnerability, suffering, beauty and grace.
Because of my part-time work as taxi driver I meet with people from all walks of life. I often witness how Dutch-Moroccan and Dutch-Turkish citizens are treated as troublesome youth. I felt compassion and was intrigued by their role in society. I tried to create a series that shows how these guys are free, if only they aren’t forced into a certain context. No context, no judgement.
The ideal man, who is he? What is our current image of him? What do men themselves want to be? Will traditional relationships ever change? Are we going to interact differently? Is there a new man coming? The ideal man project started as Anja Sijben’s personal search, a quest. In January 2011, the project expanded in a collaboration between international artist and scientists. Three weeks of work, discussions and exchange in a laboratory situation in ArToll, Bedburg-Hau, culminating in a two-day exhibition. In this project I continue my search for vulnerability. Though I think there is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ man, one needs ideals. But those ideals should always be reflected and placed in one’s own context. Otherwise we start creating super ideals, which make the world hard and unreal. The ideal can only exist if its opposite also exists. There is perfection through the existence of imperfection.
Milan Gies (08-04-1977)