Emmanuel Barrouyer: As Julie, 2013
Who are we really? Are we who we believe ourselves to be, or are we who we are told that we are? Most of us are born and raised with identities that are projected on to us from outside. Others tell us who we are, family, friends, school. They give us a name, a gender, an identity. We build on that through childhood and adolescence, so that in adulthood we believe that we are who we are because that is a truth, a reality, a fixed point in space and time, but is it?
In an increasingly multiple world, one where the old simplistic binary system of black/white, on/off, positive/negative, has been shown to be woefully inadequate, we see a different world opening up. One with sliding scales of existence, interpretations of being. One where gender is multiplied so that a whole range of genders, seemingly infinite, can be appropriated by the individual, not just for a lifetime, but for segments of a lifetime, and in many ways that is the key to the contemporary themes of gender and identity, the individual.
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Boy's Legs, 2014
The French artist, actor, photographer and performer Emmanuel Barrouyer addresses these contemporary issues of gender and identity, in his work. He most often uses himself in various staged self portraits, where it appears as if he is himself, but the ambiguity of self and identity are always close by, so that portraits of Emmanuel are often not portraits at all.
Emanuel's artwork dealing with gender and identity started off in 2013 when he began to impersonate female friends, as in the pieces As Julie, and Boys Legs. This gave him the impetus to start exploring who we are, and more importantly, who others see us as. How do others identify us? Is it real, or is it delusional. Does it help liberate us, or does it increasingly imprison us?
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Statued V - Faune Endormi, 2016
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Statued XIII - Venus, 2016
In his Statued series of 2016, Emmanuel digitally encased himself within classical sculpture, playing with nudity of flesh and stone, sliding scales of interpretation and understanding. Was he producing self portraits of flesh or stone, statued men, or embodied statues?
In his 2015 series U'ReInALonelySituation, Emmanuel explored desire and identity by connecting bathroom graffiti with classical sculpture. Another sliding scale of need and desire in the written scrawls on a bathroom wall, and the disconnected and remote signature of the classical statue. Desire sits within the genitals, just as it sits within the words on the bathroom wall.
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Qui suce bien..., 2015
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Viens Vite..., 2015
In his Silencio series, which he first revealed on the Balaclava.Q site this year, he has returned to the primal question of identity. Who am I? Why am I? Where am I? What am I? Many of us constantly ask ourselves these questions, and to be fair, many of us don't. Who we are to ourselves and who we are to others, sometimes these identities, sometimes they don't. It very often depends on how honest we want to be with ourselves, and here lies the strength of Emmanuels work. Honesty.
Emmanuel is an artist who wants to know. He doesn't play with gender and identity in order to shock, in order to offend, in order to make a name for himself. He genuinely wants to know who he is, whether he is the amalgamation of the beliefs of others, or if there is something at the core of self that is intrinsically him, and intrinsically knows that it is him, no matter what might be added or subtracted later through the journey of life, and that is something we all want and need to know.
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Silencio II, 2016
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Silencio IX, 2016
As an addition, Emmanuel has produced a series of work that was in reaction to the death of David Bowie at the beginning of this year, the series is entitled The Man Who Fell To Earth. The two pieces shown here: Diving, and Visitation from that series, are Emmanuels own tribute and have no direct connection to the movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, or indeed of David Bowie himself.
A selection of Emmanuels photography work can be found at three tumblr sites: Emmanuel Barrouyer, Emmanuel Barrouyer Photography and Emmanuel Barrouyer Black & Whites. His Silencio series can be found at the Balaclava.Q site.
All imagery produced in this article belongs to the artist Emmanuel Barrouyer and is therefore copyrighted. Please ask permission before reproducing. Thank you.
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Diving, 2016
Emmanuel Barrouyer: Visitation, 2016