Eroticized or demonized? What if we made nudity sacred?
Idan talks about his vision of nudity: rare, ephemeral and sacred.
Nudity has never stopped being at the center of debates in our society. Taboo or source of liberation, for centuries the subject is still topical. Working on this subject since 2009 through his project Who’s that nude in the living room ? Idan Wizen tells us about his feelings and thoughts on this subject.
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Face to face with the artist Idan Wizen
Hello, I am today with Idan Wizen, artist photographer in Paris for more than ten years now. He created a project called Who’s that nude in the living room ?, which is the idea of representing humanity in its beauty, in its diversity. We are going to ask him a few questions to get to know a little better his relationship to nudity and today’s society.
We would first have liked to know, what is the relationship you have between nudity and today’s society?
I think it’s a very complex relationship, which goes to two extremes. We are in a society where, on the one hand, we can find ubiquitous pornography on the Internet on newsstands. They are often, moreover, unsolicited and it is more present than it has ever been. And at the same time, we are able to make a big difference, because I think the body is more and more taboo. We have a religious revival, we have today more and more a part of society that prohibits nudity. If you look on social media, for example, you can’t show a woman’s bare breasts, you’re going to be censored. So I think we really make a big difference with a demonization of the body and at the same time ubiquitous pornography.
And that’s why you decided to represent nudity through your project?
Yes, I wanted to show the right balance. Nudity, not eroticized, not sexualized, but nudity as we are, the natural state of human beings at birth, his most primary state. It allowed us to look beyond all sociocultural contexts. Because clothes position us, whether we like it or not, we will choose them, we will put them on and that will give us information about ourselves. By photographing individuals who come out of this context, I leave more room for the imagination. It also allows us, at the same time of course, to work on aestheticism of human body, the beauty of a curve and precisely the imperfection of bodies, of those who come. Because all my photographs are taken without post-production, with people who haven’t been cast.
You’ve been working on this project for more than ten years. In this work about nudity, have you noticed an evolution?
Yes, I started exactly in 2009, I photographed more than 2500 people. Indeed, I think of a change of mentality. Mainly on the younger generations, the body has become much more taboo. I think we scared them a lot by telling them that the nude was bad, the nude was dirty, the nude was dangerous, that photos can circulate on the Internet, and that’s scary. And in fact, it’s a matter of context. It all depends on the photograph, whether it’s a pornographic photograph or not. If it is precisely an artistic photograph, which I do. But I think the evolution of mentalities is changing, and young people today are increasingly afraid of being judged, to be watched than before.
How do they experience their nudity? And why are they taking the step of participating in this project?
Why are they doing this? In general, it is a desire for acceptance of the body, for reappropriation, precisely, to get out of the existing clichés in society that we can have in advertising, in fashion. Those who come in general are not necessarily the most comfortable. It’s often people who are not totally comfortable in their body and are still relatively modest. There really is an approach, we will go beyond our own limits, beyond his own fears. In reality, after a few minutes, when we are going to start the photo shoot. People forget, forget nudity quickly and we come back, in fact to this natural state. We forget that we have no clothes, we are as comfortable as if we were dressed. It’s kind of magical, and I think people, I’ve said it before, don’t believe me and when they experience it, they’re really surprised at their own reaction, and the fact that they’ve forgotten all about it.
And if I understood correctly, at the end of this project, when people come to pose, only one photograph is kept during this session.
Why did you choose to limit it to this single photograph?
The idea for me was a bit to sanctify the exposure of each individual. We are talking about everyday people who have jobs like you and me, who are not models who are not professional and therefore who will reveal this nudity for a short time. Time for a photo shoot. I would even say, time from a single photograph. It is really a hundredth of a second that we will keep. Where they unveiled this nudity to the whole world, and in a single moment. It is basically extremely rare. Of this person who comes to pose, you will only have one photograph of this photo shoot. Only one image is kept of this nudity.
What were the reactions of the various spectators about the project? How did they react?
I have everything. I must have a bias because the people who come to see the exhibition, who come to talk to me, are people sensitive to my approach, to my point of view about the body. But overall it’s very positive. What I often remember is that it feels good to see real, authentic bodies without post-production. People with flaws, who are highlighted by his imperfections. So I think we quickly forget the nudity. Someone once told me that I mostly do portraits of naked people. I found it very well chosen. I think I do more nude portraits than nude photography.
Hanging artwork in your home is never neutral.
What does it say about us, to hang an artwork of “Who’s that nude in the living room ?”
I believe that precisely, that hanging art is to make its declarations to the world, to one’s loved ones and to one’s entourage. Or even, to remember daily what we believe in, what is dear to us, what is important to us. Hung a nude, at least in my work. I believe that is to say that you love humanity in its uniqueness and in its diversity, that you like the imperfection of the body, that you like, the authenticity, the veracity of these beings who have come to give themselves up is to pay homage to them. It is to look at them with an admiring and benevolent eye at the same time. I think that’s what it means to hang a nude in your home.