In THE GAME, a man and a woman reverse gender roles in one of the most conventional relationships in art history: artist and model. An intimate dance, where honest dialogues meet moments of friction.
In art history, the role of the naked model is traditionally reserved for women. This division of roles is essentially still the same today.
How comfortable are we with the idea that a woman, too, can actively desire, instead of being the passive object of desire? Or are we uncomfortable with the idea of a naked man taking up the passive role?
In THE GAME, I challenge this stereotypical relationship together with photographer Carlos. Whilst exposing ourselves completely, we investigate our interaction. What roles do we take on and how does this influence our power dynamics?
What if we challenge the most traditional relationship in art?
Initially, the project started with my interest in my role as a model. I wanted to explore the boundaries of my body.
I had the idea to photograph myself naked in a playground in the middle of Amsterdam. Now I needed someone to photograph me, so I asked Carlos.
It was a cold night in March. Carlos and I arrived in the playground. During the photo session I noticed that I became much more interested in our interaction.
I was supposed to determine what the photos would look like, but that was not what happened. Of course Carlos was the one taking the pictures. Yet I felt that he had more control than I actually wanted.
Once home I printed the photos and started writing about each photograph. An analysis of our interaction and power dynamics.
From that moment on I started to keep a project book in which I would write down what happened after every photo session.
How does our interaction change when we reverse roles?
Carlos had already photographed me a second time when I asked him if I could also photograph him.
That would be more interesting for the project, because we could see how the interaction changes when the roles are reversed. That evening I made a few rules: we photograph each other in turns and we choose a location in turns. We can both direct each other. Carlos agreed.
From that moment the game was on. In addition to photography, I also started recording our conversations in which we reflected on the photography sessions.
Listen to this audioclip in which we discuss our role as a model.
Click here for the English translation of this audioclip.
THE GAME is a layered project. In a playful way, I explore the perspectives on femininity and masculinity using the body as a medium.
Our different cultural backgrounds offer an interesting setting in this regard. Carlos was born in Colombia, a country known for its ‘macho’ culture, whereas Bibi Joan was raised in a country that earns high marks for gender equality.
Who defines the rules and how do we play by it?
During this project, Carlos and I took turns photographing each other. At the start, I set a few rules. From then on we let the process flow as naturally as possible. However, I started noticing that we had a different perception of these rules.
In this audio clip of a telephone conversation, Carlos and I discuss our different perception of these rules.
Click here for the English translation of this audio clip.
What can we learn from our interactions?
At some point I started filming our photography sessions.
I wanted to investigate the interaction between me and Carlos. How does this photographer-model interaction work between us? After recording the video, I realized the focus should be on what we say and our non-verbal communication. That’s why I chose to leave out the video and only work with film stills and audio.
THE GAME is an installation combining photos, audio and video. This project was first shown in Gallery Olivijn in Haarlem. With this project, I hope to empower men and women to break free from the societal norms of gender by stimulating an open and honest discussion.