Désert situates Die Hosen Runter Lassen within the discourse around Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographic depiction of his lover, Milton Moore – a black man wearing a three piece suit while having his penis exposed. Critics of the work focused their rage on the photograph’s overt (homo)sexuality.
Désert shifts the discourse instead from the reductive and erotic essentialising aspects of Mapplethorpe's initial work to a question of what Désert refers to as the “poetics of the banal and coincidental readings of cultural signs”.
He seeks answers from Fanon’s meditations on the black male condition in a white world and of existence through the eyes of the “othering” other. Fanon speaks of the insistence of the white male gaze as a force which when impressed upon a black man essentializes the physical and in doing so, dismembers and dehumanizes. Homi Bhabha, reflecting on Fanon’s work, questions our capacity to build a functioning society against this continued reduction of who is and isn’t fully human.
“From within the metaphor of vision complicit with a Western metaphysic of Man emerges the displacement of the colonial relation. The black presence ruins the representative narrative of Western personhood; its past tethered to treacherous stereotypes of primitivism and degeneracy will not produce a history of civil progress, a space for the Socius; its present, dismembered and dislocated, will not contain the image of identity that is questioned in the dialectic of mind/body and resolved in the epistemology of ‘appearance and reality’.
The White man's eyes break up the Black man's body and in that act of epistemic violence its own frame of reference is transgressed, its field of vision disturbed.
Text: Mokia Laisin
The Haitian-American artist creatively reacts to Robert Mappelthorpes seminal and highly controversial black & white photograph Man in a Polyester Suit of 1980 by asking different men to be photographed (in color) replicating the 1980 photograph while wearing a pair of German made Lederhosen specifically chosen in the Red-Black-Green colors of the Black-Power movement.
The artist believes that the original polyester suit is laden with implications on class and culture. This less formal work chooses to shift the conversation from erotic essentialism to the poetics of the banal and coincidental readings of cultural signs.
Material & Format:
2003-2004: Photography, analogue C-Prints, 29 x 20 cm.