I AM FLESH – Text
In I am Flesh bodies make up reality: 35 naked female bodies meticulously photographed in their primeval condition to look as real as possibile – and surprisingly so.
This extraordinary resemblance to the truth is achieved by means of a special technique whereby each image is composed of 47,244 x 32,864 pixels per inch, equivalent to 400 X 278 cm printable area at 300 dpi, while,for reasons of better perception, the final prints will be executed as 230 x 160 cm True Giclée Fine Art Prints, protected under plexiglass and displayed all together.
TEXT by Adriano Zamperini
Human bodies have long been photographed and described. Many have been seen and read about. And every community, through its institutions and leaders, has always espoused certain body-types and shunned others. Showing off the desirable ones, and hiding the undesirable. All those who might be perceived as excessive or upsetting. Roger Weiss, donning the role of a visual ethnographer, involves himself in every body-type of contemporary society. Almost adopting a “naturalistic” approach, he isn’t scared to get his hands dirty. To breathe somebody else’s breath. Accepting that our own images are never fully under control. Rather, he allows them a certain margin, opening up ever-changing and unlooked for perceptions. And with project 35, he invites us to continually switch between the general and the particular, setting in motion a systematic alternation between interior and exterior. He undermines the comforting idea of an established aesthetic of anatomy and takes us on a journey of the body that turns its revelations of intimacy into an exercise of democracy.
The essence of human rights, a key element for any society to call itself democratic, is that the autonomy of the individual rests on the inviolability of the human body. The body, that in past ages was in the hands of God and the ruler. In war, sent to the slaughterhouse by the generals. In the fields and in the factories, abused and deceived by the cheating bosses. Today, instead, our bodies belong to us. Admittedly, even under democracy, politics retain some control over our bodies. Always ready to regulate, to forbid and to issue permits. And yet, political control struggles with bodies reluctant to hand over control of their own fate. There are plenty of scenarios for control – and plenty of dilemmas – from procreation to living wills.
One of these scenarios relates to the expressive materialization of the self in the appearance of the body, in the visible identity of the individual. This is the drift of Roger Weiss’ argument.
As phenomenology shows, if the self exists in the world via the body, it can be experienced in two different ways: objectively and a subjectively. Bodies that by their functioning test the limits of their own reality. Shards of the drama of the human condition. In daily life, the body is the self, the dwelling place of my feelings, where I move, the frame for my perspectives. And I can even adopt a perspective of examining my own body. But there are innumerable social occasions where a separation exists between the self and the body. Medical discourse, for example, with its ability to turn a person into a patient. Or, at its most extreme, into a corpse. On which one can operate without any resistance. But even then, the self remains, as it were, trapped. Because not only do I have a body, I am a body.
And, today, living as we do in a body-crazed society, individuals are always being called on to “work on” or “look after” their bodies. And if individuals know what they can do – within certain limits – with their own bodies, the problem remains what to do with this freedom, because the body expresses an established rapport with the surrounding world. Thus becoming an existential option. A topical theme for contemporary democracies.
Roger Weiss’ photographs are life forms that speak by means of the body and not about the body. They relate setbacks and aspirations, weaknesses and strengths, pain and joy. Of rights achieved and rights trodden down. The flesh that exposes itself, calls for others’ perception. Obliging these perceptions to pause on its appearance. A place where the self and the world intermingle and relegate the realm of ideas to second place in order to deal with the realm of the visible. The inner self, usually held back as opaque and inaccessible, becomes open and displayed on the skin. So, it’s not about somebody else’s body that conceals a self. Rather, it’s about bodies that reveal a self. And, being able to follow every fold, it is possible to feel emotions that become stories. Moments that become history. The photographer, just as he enlarges faces, expands the feelings experienced. In other words, he enables us to “reach within”, putting people in touch with themselves and others.
And thus, these oversize photographs rub up against us, creating the friction that is typical of the human encounter. Every body, though forming and representing defined individuality, is turned outside itself, and is set in a relationship. Not an absorbing empathy but rather an invitation to live a relationship of differences. In which reciprocal differences are a pre-condition for understanding. That is project 35; that is what democracy should be about!
Translated by Bob Lowe and Marco Sonzogni
35 An Ethnophotographic Project, Twill Magazine, 2010, Paris
BLINK MAGAZINE – Interview – Korea
Hello Roger. Who are you and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Switzerland and in early age I began experimenting with photography.
I graduated with the highest grade from Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan, Italy. My curiosity for the human shape Ieads me to an artistic approach. As up to today, I carry on as an artistic as well as a fashion photographer. I always have thought that photography is a precise lifestyle. A commitment that bears the mark of abnegation, the first condition to approach the sublime. “Photography for a higher awareness of myself, of my human being”.
When and how did you decide to venture into photography?
l’ve been bound to photography since my first year of the Academy of Fine Arts, when I became aware that I could use it as a mask from which to gain strength and hide my idea of limits.
Can you talk a bit about some of your work over the years?
I explore our social fragmentation, where each one of us thinks to look out for himself, with no regard for our context. I look for shards of the drama of the human condition to document through photographic fragmentation, that they relate to setbacks and aspirations, weaknesses and strengths, pain and joy. Of rights archieved and rights trodden down.
Tell me about the ‘I am Flesh’ project. How did the idea for the series come about?
Seeing is a pure, primordial, non-Judgmental act; thinking, interpreting and evaluating are subsequent processes arising out of the habit and need of ordering all imagery in our own representation of the world. ‘I am Flesh’ is based precisely on this lack of immediate assessment: by expanding its scope. it creates an experience comparable to that of Iiterary haiku, where – in the absence of lexlcal virtuosity – one has the possibility of following a path through reality.
Who are those people in photographs?
In ‘I am Flesh’ it is bodies who make up reality: 35 naked female bodies metioulously filmed and photcgraphed in their primeval condition to lock as real as possible- and surprisingly so. No distraction is allowed on front of these bodies: in their presence, any feeling of attractionc repugnance, bewilderment, excitement or banal initial curiosity fades away as one gets physically closer to the work, to its outspoken essentiality. These naked bodies act as a stimulus to search new insights in Ioneliness and are like invitations to a confrontation with one’s own self. They reject all pretexts and lies: there is nothing to prove, the evidence is crystal-clear. They are timeless, yet create a space which wrong-foots us. They express the ultimate courage to lay bare and offer onesell without mediaticns – which we almost always lack. We are somehow forced to incarnate in their flesh. And without us being aware of the process, they become maps – and we do the same in a transitive spirit of daring. ‘I am Flesh’ is, above all, a project on identity.
Why did you name the project as ‘I am FIesh’?
‘I am Flesh’ the flesh that exposes itself. calls for others’ perception and the inner self, usually held back as opaque and inaccessible, and becomes open and displayed on the skin so revealing the inner self. These works, rub up against us, create the friction that is typical of the human encounter and call everybody to live a relationship in which reciprocal differences are a pre-condition for understanding.
How was the process of preparing and shoothg for the project?
Friends and models have joined the project as well as all those who simply adhered by seeing the project itself growing. I asked all of them to gift me a moment in which they would have totally released themselves from their life pattern. Only at that moment I would have pictured them in their female being. This extrsordinary resemblance to the truth is achieved by means of a special technique: each image is composed of 47.244 X 32.864 pixels per inch, equivalent to 400 X 278 cm printable area at 300 dpi, while – in order to obtain better perception – the works will be executed as 230 x 160 cm on Diasec and displayed all together.
Tel me how the idea tor ‘Be Two’ project came about
The ‘Be Two’ is a project on ID through couples Iacking will and pulsions proper of nature’s human soul. By eliminating drives and muscular contraotions, in that very photographic juncture instant I obtained a negative of the instinclual couple and of those reasons why a couple has a right to exist. This negative allowed me to trace a map, an ideal outline in which I can pick elements bonded to the unoonscious and not typical of every human being, elements that crop up afterwards in the images.
What types of people inspire you to take their photogaph?
The encounter with people of passim belongs to that moment in which our sensory receptors are amplified. Photographically speaking I act during this time, when you get closer to each other in dilated pupils. “The pleasure in seeing is spring which feeds summer of a deeper understanding: the possibility TO BE together with the others”.
What do you ask your subjects in front of your camera?
I disguise myselt completely in the pictures machine from where I take the strength from, and I hide my idea of limit in a realty pictured together, in a lonely instant and without mediation. My subject/Models know that Is the meeting in itself that Interests me, exactly when, in a few instants, you have to decide how and how much of yourself you will, and are able to give.
You’ve worked both photography and video, how do you adapt creatively between the two?
I use the video as if it was a camera, expanding in time steady images and I use photography going after a moment that nearly always escapes, like a hunter and his prey. Photography has got to do with hunting. You click, you shoot and you hope you’ve captured your prey. The predator-hunter sleeps to rest and dreams to recounter on his ability to hunt. Photographing is dreaming of hunting, shooting at preys in order to really seize them the day after. At the sunlight the photographer is like the hunter who used to paint in the caves (darkroom) the preys so that the cave could give birth to those preys in the open air where then he would have hunted for them in the daylight. Channel of birth, platonic cave, darkroom, rocky wall, film, digital support… I remain a hunter, photography a mean of hunt; ars goetia, a theurgy the photographing (Maurizio Medaglia).
What equipment do you use?
I use Nikon for photography. Canon for video and Hasselblad for the medium-format.
How do approach a new project when you
get an idea?
What surrounds me becomes a field of experimentation which is fed by my desire to get personally involved. I am always questioning myself. Trying to ﬁnd the courage not to lock back and understand what is the way that allows me to grow.
What is your art theory?
Society creates and destroys models in the interest of a few. Its everyone’s responsibility to find or create alternatives.
What’s next lor you? Any future plans?
Find out new territories to explore and tell about.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT
ROGER WEISS WWW.ROGERWEISS.CH