How have your photos evolved around the theme of the body?
At first, I noticed that women were always hyper-sexualized. So I also wanted to make fun of breasts, buttocks, sometimes what we are reduced to. To find the absurd in all that, humor too, to have more distance from that, to be less in a conflictual relationship with one’s own body or in a judgment.
What is the leitmotif of this exhibition at the Brussels Hangar?
The exhibition shows us these parts of the body, often linked to complex and intimacy. She also sheds light on how feminism, society and all the subjects we are talking about more and more, make us realize that the body is part of a system where systemic prejudices remain. It’s important to also show my Belgian roots and the influence of surrealism in my work.
Where does this attraction for surrealism come from?
I had a great Latin teacher in high school who decided that 11 would be about dreams and 12 would be about love. These were the two themes that ran through the whole year. We therefore evoked the dream, as with Freud for example, and I believe that it must have been a small seed planted. And then obviously, the influence of Magritte hovers in the air.
Do these bodies painted in certain photos in the exhibition have a particular meaning?
It’s a visual experimentation around the body, the contortion and finally, how, once again, when this woman is completely naked, the paint and the pigment come to dress her. She still feels dressed. And then shows an incandescent body, a living body. And how, finally, once again, what we consider unattractive, like rolls, take on another dimension and become beautiful. It’s interesting to see the body also as a material, with which we can play, be amazed, surprise ourselves.
You also don’t hesitate to highlight all the bodies…
It was during my studies at the Gobelins school. We had to photograph a place, the Hotel Potocki, a private mansion in Paris, very luxurious, with gilding, chandeliers everywhere and an unusual character. At first, I had thought of a giraffe that would eat chandeliers. Then I realized that I didn’t have a giraffe and that I was terrible at editing. So I had fun posing a naked old lady in the middle of this bourgeois place. Claudette was super happy, light, full of joy. And she didn’t care about being naked. After five minutes, I forgot she was naked. These portraits contrast with the weight that can be on the shoulders of aging women, the fact that one must always hide any sign of aging.
In 2018, you also took over Les Passantes by Georges Brassens…
It is a mosaic which represents vulvas in a metaphorical way. This is the introduction to the Les Passantes clip. A carte blanche given to me by UniversalMusic and Havas Group. They wanted to allow younger generations to discover French song classics that were perhaps a little sleeping in the drawer. We are in a very visual society where everything is also consumed by the image and therefore by YouTube and by this desire to bring modernity. I decided to make my interpretation of this poem which was written in 1911 and set to music by Georges Brassens in 1972. I settled on Brassens’ diction to cut out my images, a bit like a visual poem.
The clip was released on March 8, 2018, for the international day of struggle for women’s rights. After 4 hours, the clip was censored on YouTube for those under 18 for “offensive content”. Just because it didn’t include women who weren’t just thin, young, white. It was censored because of carrot peelings, chewing gum, a girl painting red paint on white pants. There was a massive report from subscribers to the official channel of Georges Brassens, who are mostly men over 50 and who did not like this performance too much.
Tell us about the series ” This is not consent »…
November 2018. In Ireland, a court case. A 17-year-old woman is raped by a 27-year-old man. The lawyer for this man, in court, will decide to present the thong that the victim wore the same day as evidence of sexual provocation on the part of the young woman. The rapist was acquitted. There was a huge protest movement in Ireland but also all over the world. The women were taking photos of their underwear with the hashtag “this is not consent”. It’s sad, but we must still remember that underwear is not a call to sex.
What place does Belgium hold in your work?
There is this project that I did for 7 years, released in 2018, which talks about my father who was quite old and sick, with neurological sequelae of cancer. It’s a book that tells how, with photography, we manage to look at the disease and all these subjects that are a little taboo, a little sad otherwise. There is necessarily a Belgian anchorage. Also in my images which try to be poetic through surrealism, with everyday objects, comical or funny things.
” Charlotte Abramow, Volle Petrol ». On view at the Hangar de Bruxelles until December 17, 2022.
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Charlotte Abramow: Magritte Is In the Air
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