SAUVAGE by Katlijn Blanchaert
"'Everyone carries a shadow' Jung wrote, 'and the less it is embodied in the individuals conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.' - it may be, in part, ones link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind."
Belgium based photographic artist Katlijn Blanchaert talks to us about her practice and her work with the fetish community in Belgium. SAUVAGE is a complete inside perspective on the sexual 'deviance' culture. Blanchaert completely immersed herself into this private world and captured the people and the practices via photography. Underlying the whole body of work is her own link between Jungian ideas behind public consciousness and the private subconscious. Her practice completely reminded us of Nan Goldin and her practice of immersion in photography.
Abstract: SAUVAGE “Exposing your dark side doesn’t frighten me, hiding it does.” (anonymous) Wandering through life with an overwhelming inner turmoil and unstoppable curiosity, the beneath- the- surface- mood takes a central place in the explorations of nature’s dark side and personal obsessions. Delving down into the subconscious, beyond the daily context, with an affinity for dark settings and odd atmospheres I find myself visiting places I would otherwise never go to, meeting people I would otherwise never meet. The inspiration for Sauvage was a theory of Carl Jung. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." It may be (in part) one's link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind. I searched the internet for people who were willing to pose for me. During these brief encounters with anonymous individuals in raunchy hotel rooms intense conversations evolved and hidden emotions appeared. I observed with awe and respect how people showed their vulnerability. With this project I want to submerge the viewer in the existence of an intimate world of unusual desires and characters.
Tell us more about you and your artwork.
I live and work in Ghent, Belgium. I try to combine my photographic projects with a full time job, which is not easy. Since I started photographing the world became more interesting and I see stories develop everywhere I look. I love to go to places where I’ve never been, see strange things, observe unusual feelings and people in dusky atmospheres.
How did you plan for this project? What was your creative process?
I didn’t plan to do a project about dark sexual desires, it just happened. I was making photos of my female friends about sensuality, but I noticed that it was difficult to ask them certain things. When Michael Ackerman saw these photos during a workshop in St- Petersburg he said that my photos stopped at the visible/ physical part of the body; the people were nude, but not naked. He made me think about going further, beyond safety. It had to be more complex, like life is. So I decided to photograph people that are comfortable taking their clothes of. I went to an erotic fair and started talking to the only performers that felt authentic to me. And before I knew I was introduced to the S&M scene. And one meeting led to another. I met a lot of people in hotel rooms and clubs, saw a lot of things that I didn’t know they exist and visited places I would otherwise never visit.
What work inspires or has inspired?
Artists that follow their own path even when it’s not easy, like Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe. Artists who are doing very personal work like Antoine D’Agata, Nan Goldin, Araki, Thomas Vandenberghe,.. Artists who make work in which I feel a certain strange atmosphere like the directors David Lynch and Ulrich Seidl, the painters Michaël Borremans and Eric Fischl. And I like the animal photos of Gary Winogrand and Michel Vanden Eeckhoudt.
Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?
I also did a workshop with Antoine D’Agata and he told us to make our own rules to make it exciting.Like I said I really love artists who resolute follow their own path. Often I have a strong idea of what I want to do, but then I begin to doubt myself and ask a lot of people for their opinion. Because I value all those people I try to keep their advice in mind, but it confuses me and my work becomes less straightforward. So I hope that over the years I will become more confident about my vision and my work.
I really loved this work. It really reminds me of Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void but less shiny and neon. Tell us more about the Jungian theory behind your work. What is your relationship with the models found via the internet now?
I was watching an American police series in which the criminal suddenly quotes Carl Jung. I was intrigued by what he said and started digging into that theory. "Everyone carries a shadow" Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individuals conscious life, the blacker and denser it is."; It may be (in part) ones link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind. I searched on Fetlife (Facebook for kinky people) for people who were willing to pose for me. During these brief encounters with anonymous individuals in raunchy hotel rooms intense conversations evolved and hidden emotions appeared. I observed with awe and respect how people showed their vulnerability. With this project I wanted to submerge the viewer in the existence of an intimate world of unusual desires and characters. With some of them I’m still in contact. There is one transvestite I see regularly in a hotel room to take photos dressing up, taking a lot of drugs and masturbate. I have no idea who he is in real life, but as a woman she is quite overwhelming. And a S&M couple invite me often in their house for an excessive meal and cocktails. I was invited to their wedding last weekend.
Any words for aspiring photographic artists?
Just keep going!
Is there anything else you’re currently working on?
I am currently working on a few projects. One, Limen, is about the state of mind I found myself in, stuck in a liminal space, a no man’s land, between past and future identities. Another big project is about female lion tamers. Due to several changes in the law the rules are stricter for lion tamers and is reducing the number of lion tamers. Lion tamers are more in a negative way in the news, a lot of people protest against exotic animals in the circus. I want to put them back in the spotlight and show how special it is for a woman to have this sort of contact with lions and tigers. For the moment I have no idea what to do with the transvestite photos, but in time I will find a way to show them/ tell the story.
This quote says it all:
“Exposing your dark side doesn’t frighten me, hiding it does.” - (anonymous)