Project: Risk Hazekamp, Let Them Talk

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let Them Talk (2009), by Risk Hazekamp

Risk Hazekamp is a Dutch artist based in Rotterdam and Berlin, and one of the participants in the ArtRoPa project. She offers some thoughts on one of the works inspired by her residency in Suriname in 2008.

I use photography to explore issues of identity, and in particular the way in which gender and identity intersect. By evoking and drawing upon mass media and popular visual language — fashion, advertising, and movie genres — I question the construction of (gender) identities.

In this image I place myself in the position of the exotic, the “stared at”, using an eclectic image language that will be read differently depending on the individual luggage of the viewer. At the same time the “stared at” takes back power by staring back at the viewer, and thus also becomes the active one.

For me, this picture contains a lot of personal thoughts and feelings. It functions as an expression of my encounter with Suriname (which is still going on). To highlight a few details/elements:

= Let Them Talk is the name of the specific angisa (headkerchief) in the photograph. [The angisa incorporates a form of visual language: the pattern of knots conveys a specific message, after which each angisa is named.] In Suriname, the angisa is mostly used to express personal feelings, but is it also used as a political tool?

= The angisa in this image is made from newspapers that were published the day after [Dutch politician] Pim Fortuyn was murdered. We can recognise him on the front of the angisa. The bandeau is made of the Surinamese newspaper De Ware Tijd (“The True Time”).

= The picture is a self-portrait, showing me, with my biological female body, dressed as a drag queen: a man performing femininity. It refers to Pim Fortuyn being a very outspoken, flamboyant homosexual individual, which in my opinion contradicts with his extreme, right-wing political points of view.

= The showing of intimate parts of the body is a statement in itself. Not only do I show here the “real” white skin of my body, my breast, against the artificially white skin of my face; in doing so I try to emphasise the fragility, the instability, and the fugacity of the human body.

One of the intellectual frameworks of this work is a book by the social and cultural anthropologist Gloria Wekker: The Politics of Passion: Women's Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese Diaspora (2006). Wekker writes:

In Sranan Tongo ... there is a plethora of terms to make statements about “I”, pointing to the multiplicity and malleability of self....

One of the striking features of this scheme is that it is possible, irrespective of one’s gender, to make statements about self in one of three ways: first, in singular and/or in plural terms; second, in male and/or female terms.... In addition to these different terms, there is a third mode to make statements about self in terms of third-person constructions, i.e., in terms of one’s Winti....

With this photograph I want to express the crux of my work, which is that identity should not be understood as a logical and coherent thing, but as something that is dynamic, fragmented, and a changeable process that is constantly moving.