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Sensualist continued

Please note: these artworks are intended for viewing by adults. Nudity may offend.

The Sensualist Project 2005-2006 - artist statement

The Sensualist project germinated in 2003 after I had read a range of sado-masochistic fiction. S&M both fascinates me and troubles me. It makes me ask questions I do not have the experience or facility to answer. With themes such as the union of power and sacrifice in the pursuit of pleasure, and the quest for eroticism, unbridled by any moral framework, my choice of literature in 2003 sent my artwork on a new tangent. I started formulating a project that would dabble with S&M concepts and answer some of my questions regarding my own boundaries. I invented an act of self-sacrifice that was physical and psychological, sexual though not pleasurable; an act of carnal sacrifice and cerebral erotica; a loving gift of self-negation.

Was it irresponsible of me to trust these people completely? Could I entrust them with the task of each designing a tattoo to go on my body, and was I capable of such an act of physical surrender? Would these people think it an act of arrogance or damage to participate in a mass tattooing of my body, or would they accept the task as a personal honour and a conscious sacrament?

From my list of trustworthy individuals, I delegated a name to each letter of the word 'Sensualist'. The people on this list were those who had participated in shaping me as a sensual and sexual person, each identity marking steps in my evolution from celibate adult Christian to Hedonist. The first letter, the S, was designated to my parents. They gave me Christianity and uncompromising morals as a starting point in life, and they gave me constant unwavering love, enabling me to give love to others. The designs of the next eight letters of the word Sensualist were entrusted to friends, lovers and beloved. The last letter, T, I reserved for myself to design. Just as my parents were my beginning, I am my own end.

To each of these ten participants I sent out a 'body map' of myself. It was an undoctored, unglamorously naked representation from every possible angle. The act of sending it out required me to override my vanity and surrender myself to their judgement. It was the initial sacrifice. The map was accompanied by a letter explaining the project and requesting that they design the letter designated to them in the form of a white inked tattoo, and place an X on my body map where they thought it should be permanently tattooed.

The nine-hour process of having the tattoos put into my skin required a 100% effort from me. The session was videoed and documented. Blood prints on bridal silk were taken, forming my personal Turin Shroud, a contemporary relic of loving sacrifice. It was infuriatingly uncomfortable and physically exhausting, but it was done as a commitment to an idea and as an act of faith and love to the ten participants.

Months later, once the tattoos had completely healed, I wrote a letter to each participant. The letter incorporated a photograph of their bleeding design, as evidence that it was now permanently on my flesh. The letter thanked them and also requested they model nude for me. The photograph I proposed to take of them was to be a sensual portrait. This is all I told them. I allowed them to dictate the place, time, props and extent of their physical exposure.

I believe that you never really see someone until they stand naked before you. Naked is utterly unpretentious; it is unnerving and empowering and above all it is uncommon. My intent in photographing the participants nude was to turn the tables in my advantage; once I had their images I claimed the power to represent the individual as I wished. Their control was lost and they were completely, adoringly, objectified. The most effective way I have found to capture a person on camera is to strip them, make them vulnerable and then tell them they're beautiful.

>i>Works are C-type photographs/multi media. Some works are unique.
Works are available in artist-made frames specific to the images.


Contact:

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Photospace gallery
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ph/fax: 64-4-382 9502
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Director: James Gilberd
j.gilberd@xtra.co.nz


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