OBJECTS OF DESIRE – W&A – BARBARA WLSON & ROLF ALME

 

THE ARTIST 

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Barbara Wilson and Rolf Alme are well-established Scandinavia based artists who’s main interest have been artistic research. They both have found theatre as an interesting arena for extending the boundaries of visual art. Rolf Alme is a professor of scenography and director of conceptual theatre performances. Barbara Wilson is a painter that does experimental space research with actors. They now have decided to collaborate as W&A. Their first collaborate work “Objects of Desire” is on a formal level a journey from the classical painting to conceptual art and performance. On a philosophical level their work is a radical political statement about sexuality and gender.

 

THE PAINTINGS

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For the last centuries the woman has been the dominating object, artistically and sexually. The male artist has defined the beauty in form of the sexualized object of the young woman.
Barbara Wilson’s portraits of boys and young men have both a fascinating and disturbing effect on the viewer. She places boys and young men in a position that make them into sensual objects.
She casts a sexualized glance on them. Her glance feels wrong and almost forbidden. The viewer is obliged to be aware of himself or herself as a viewer, viewer of art,
but also viewer of something desirable and forbidden.

These boys and young men are viewed from a distance, from the distance of age. The artist is older and she watches the young men with an acknowledged unachievable attitude.
The sexualized regard is an acknowledgement of beauty but at the same time an unbridgeable abyss is created between painter and object.
What is really going on in the young men’s eyes? The distance of age has made it impossible to know. This explains the certain sadness and melancholy expressed on their regards,
their lips, their skin and on the canvas itself. The boys are out of time, poetic introverted and unachievable.

As a viewer one feels intuitively that the paintings could have a homoerotic character due to the sexualized regard. Thereby indirectly the paintings reveal that it is typically the man’s right to create erotic objects. It is not expected that a woman take this position. All this creates a both disturbing and exciting challenge for the viewer.

 

THE VIDEO PAINTINGS

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In the video paintings Barbara Wilson collaborates with conceptual artist Rolf Alme. Here the aesthetics of her paintings is merged with video portraits of young men. The contemporary urge to stage your actions and to document and share this staged life using digital media is merged with the texture of the classical painting.

The young men we recognize from the paintings are now real. Or are they? They are obviously staged. Their poses establish a similar attitude. There is the same unbridgeable abyss between the spectator and the video portraits that we experienced in the paintings. The young men are here in front of us breathing and blinking their eyes but we cannot reach out to them and their world.

Because they are so real the spectator feels almost uncomfortable in front of them. It is like we are intruding, looking through the half closed door of our son’s room while he is sitting on his bed thinking about something we shouldn’t know, thinking about something we wouldn’t understand.

 

THE VIDEO

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The video is a collaborative work between Barbara Wilson and Rolf Alme.
The social development in the Scandinavian countries is changing gender conceptions and positions in a revolutionary way. At present more than 65% of the students at the universities are women. The young generation of Scandinavian boys and young men will have to adapt to other role models than the stereotype model of generations of men before them. The women will have higher positions in the society than men. The women will earn more money then men. The women will be the decision makers. This will fundamentally change the relation between women and men.

Traditionally men looked at women as objects. The men had high positions in society and they looked at women as objects. Their women should be beautiful. In this new developing social context women will look at men as objects. Now the men need to be beautiful.
In the video we see a young men as an object. We see him make himself into an object of desire. The traditional image we know is that of a woman making her face and body into this beautiful object spending hours on make up, hairstyle and trying dress after dress in front of the mirror.

Now it is the man.
In the video we see a young man that we could recognize from the paintings and from the video paintings. We see him training, shower, dry, put on body lotion, hair gel and make up and finally dress in front of the mirror. This young man is aware of the fact that women or other men regard him as an object. He just has to be beautiful to succeed. Just as generations of young women before him.

There is an obvious intimate and sexual element in this exposure of the young man. Now we are not looking through a half closed door into his room. Now we are there beside him in the bathroom, in the shower in front of the mirror. It is a disturbing position to be in. But even the young man in the shower is just as unreachable for us as the paintings. The unbridgeable abyss between the viewer and the object is still there.

Watching this video one is confronted with one’s own perception of gender and role models. Our stereotype image of the man is questioned. In some cultures and countries you see into a distant future by seeing this video. In Scandinavia wee see today.

 

W&A RE-TAILORED JEANS

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In our society one cannot speak about objects of desire without questioning where our desirable images come from. They are based on products of course. The fashion industry create images for us and help us merge into these images in a more or less successful way depending on our age the shape of our body and the look of our face. We buy the clothes, the makeup the perfume etc. and we become in our appearance a little more like the beautiful desirable models on the posters.

The fashion shop for men is the ultimate space to be in, feel and even touch the very core of male beauty. The fashion shop is today’s sculpture of the young desirable man.

In Rolf Alme’s installation that is entirely designed and furnished as an exclusive fashion shop we present the final contemporary portrait of the young man. We expose the contemporary icon of the sexualized young man: the jeans. The W&A jeans collection consists of recycled re-tailored jeans artistically hand-patinated using ecological sane products. (The objects of desire of today are ecologically trustworthy.)

This exclusive fashion shop is made of black stained wood. Among stocks of re-tailored jeans in the shelves are several TV monitors showing videos of the young W&A – models. They are sitting or standing like in the paintings we have seen.

By excluding their faces and concentrating our regard on the body Rolf Alme erases the classical psychological regard on the person. The eyes are like doorways to our souls to our state of mind to our feelings. By avoiding the eyes he forces the viewer to a pure aesthetical regard and makes the viewer focus on the beauty and the erotic aspect of the body itself. The young men are pure objects of desire and pure form. The homoerotic regard of the fashion industry is clear. Unlike Barbara Wilson’s paintings the fashion videos in the shop are made for the man’s regard on himself.

 

THE PERFORMANCE 

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On the opening night and four or five times more during the exhibition a group of young men will be present in the exposition space. They will be staged to do different performance work related to the title. In these works we play with the definitions of form and not form, reality and fiction. The objects of desire are in the room.

 

 

 

Sunday 27. April 2014 | BLOG