What is Who’s That Nude In The Living Room?
Idan Wizen tells us more about his artistic project Who's That Nude In The Living Room?
Meeting in his Parisian studio. He presents us his photographic, humanistic, and committed approach. And more specifically his project Who’s that nude in the living room ?, an artistic work that underlines the uniqueness, beauty, and diversity of the human race.
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Could you explain what Who’s that nude in the living room ? is?
Who’s that nude in the living room ? is an art project that I started several years ago where I photograph different individuals in the simplest cloth, naked, to try to show their uniqueness and at the same time diversity. Today I have photographed more than 2000 people in different collections. Aesthetic photos, without vulgarity, without pornography, and which I try to do as authentic as possible towards every individual.
What did you try to express through these photographic works?
When I started the project, it revolved around three main ideas. The first was the place of aesthetics: I wanted to show individuals, beings, bodies, younger, older, skinnier, curvier, different in any case from what the fashion and advertising industry accustoms us to see on a daily basis. To show the bodies that we don’t necessarily see in magazines, on advertising posters, and to show that by their differences, by their uniqueness, they can be beautiful differently, elseways than with perfect measurements. They can be beautiful by a look, by a smile, by an attitude, by an expression. To show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not in dictates of measurements.
The second point I wanted to work on was the place of modesty. Ten years ago, we were in a society which, even then, was already moving towards two extremes: on the one hand, more and more omnipresent, unsolicited pornography, whether in the newspapers or on the Internet; and on the other hand, a revival of Puritanism, where the body is demonized, frowned upon, excluded from social networks, whereas it was always present in the art history. Between these two extremes, I wanted to show healthy nudity, without eroticism, more natural nudity, the one with which in general one is born and remains the entire life, nudity that doesn’t shock, just the one that describes the body. I thought this was the case ten years ago, I think it is even more so today with the revival of Puritanism very present. So I wanted to propose to everyone to come, to dare, to defy a little bit the codes, the taboos, and to dare to assume, to expose their bodies in the simplest of ways.
The third point was a reflection on attraction, on what we like in a being when we take it out of any socio-cultural context. When I was a teenager, we had a lot of posters of music bands, models, actors, and we identified with them. The other type of photo we often have at home is family photography. In both of these cases, you have a very figurative photo, which describes someone as you know them. Here, I wanted to take the opposite approach: I wanted us to be able to dream, to imagine a being without any information about him or her. We have neither his name, nor his profession, nor his environment, nor his age, nor his clothes, which position us socially, they are never neutral. The idea was really to push the absence of information to the maximum, to let the spectator, the collector of the photograph, dream, imagine who could be this person.
Through the project, we can see many totally different universes. Can you tell us more about it?
Over the years I wanted to continue the project but to make it evolve graphically, aesthetically, to add meaning to each collection. Year after year, you have different collections, with a different graphic style, with different images, which take up the same ideas, the same concept: an individual where only one photograph is chosen, no casting, no retouching, but which let me set up different backgrounds and universes.
Each universe must allow me to express myself as an artist, to add a reflection on today’s society, and also not to make the same print, the same light, the same photograph for ten years, and to be able to change and to offer something else to collectors.
To have the idea is one thing. To undertake is another. Can you tell us about your first session?
The first session was a bit by chance, I was very young, I had just finished my studies, I was just starting out in active life, I didn’t have a photo studio yet. I remember looking for a place where I could photograph the first people, and we ended up in the living room of a friend’s parents, while they didn’t know about it, and were on a weekend. We were able to take the first photographs there. The first models were the people who trusted me, friends, friends of friends, who came by word of mouth, when I didn’t have much to show (I had just come out of school), and who trusted me, who dared to stand naked in front of my camera, that’s when I did the first photographs. Then, quickly they pleased, I was lucky to have more and more people who wanted to come and pose.
Today, how do you find your models?
Today it’s rather the people who come to find me via the website, they hear about us via exhibitions, via word of mouth, via social networks. The idea is that they register directly on the website, they choose their time window when they want to come and I know nothing more about them. When we open the door, that’s when we discover them, their name, their age, their profession, their history, the reasons that push them to come, which allows me to ensure that each session is unique, different, and where I try to make the photograph that will correspond to everyone.
Where does the title Who’s that nude in the living room ? come from?
The title Who’s that nude in the living room ? was for me the purpose of the project: to acquire a work of art of a person we don’t know, of an anonymous person, and to exhibit it in our living room. I have often been asked “Why in the living room?”. Because when I started the project, I was a student in Paris and like most students in Paris, we live in a studio that is a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, because of the rent prices, and because we didn’t have other rooms. In my mind, it was the living room THE room overall. Today you can put the artwork in the room you want, or even put several in each room.
Have you also posed?
The idea of the project is that it’s anonymous, so maybe, maybe not. Take a look on the website, you’ll see if you recognize me or not.
And your relatives?
Some of them decided to come from the beginning, others took much longer. It is very interesting in this case, because it is always more complicated when you know the person, but I was always flattered that they dare to come and give themselves up to me, to overcome their modesty, their complexes. It’s something that varies a lot depending on the individual: there are people who have taken a long time to dare to do it, others who have always been willing to do it. There are really no rules about it.
Where have your photographs been exhibited?
We were lucky to have different exhibitions, in Paris of course, where the project was born, but also in the United States, in New York, in Miami. We were exhibited in Osaka, in many places, in galleries, in public spaces. It was always great moments because for me the purpose of an art project is to make exhibitions, that’s what I find beautiful.
I think I have a rather moving memory of an exhibition in Arles, for the Carrières de Lumière, where I had the chance to see my photographs projected in large scale onto the old stone quarries six meters high. Yet these were photographs I knew, but I was lucky to rediscover them, to see them differently. Just thinking about them again, I am still breathless.
Among all these photos, do you have any preferences?
It’s hard to say, because I’ve photographed more than 2000 people. There are many that I particularly like. I like them both for the aesthetics, for the graphics, but also sometimes for stories of models, but I’m the only one who knows, I don’t reveal them.
I like to refer not to the ones I like, but to the ones that were really loved by my peers. I have quite a few photographs that have been lucky enough to be selected in contests, that have won awards, that have been recognized. The fact that it’s not me who loves them, but the professional jury, touches me particularly and I love them all the more.
Are you still working on this project?
We continue to photograph in the studio today, even though I’m working on other artistic projects. There are regularly open slots for the sessions, and the project continues, not only on the production of the works, but also on the exhibitions, which we will continue to exhibit in different places, as soon as possible.
What advice do you give to people who discover the project?
If you are discovering the project today, I would advise you to take the time. In our society where everything goes fast, where we try to look at everything quickly, it’s difficult to look at ten years of work in a few minutes. I would say to go and take the time to look at each photograph carefully, to take five, ten, fifteen seconds per photo. Take the time to look at the details of a curve, a smile, a look, to let yourself go. Go to the next one, take the time, go back to the previous one.
Often I think, but it’s true overall, not just for my photos, we don’t take enough time to look at a work of art, to immerse ourselves in it, in the atmosphere, in the universe and let ourselves be touched.