In Romainville, an artist asks residents about masculinities
Artist Lila Neutre, in residence at the Fiminco Foundation in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis), invited men from the neighborhood to participate in playful workshops that challenge gender norms
REPORT – Artist Lila Neutre, in residence at the Fiminco Foundation in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis), invited men from the neighborhood to participate in playful workshops that challenge gender norms
“If tomorrow I were to be a woman, I would leave France. And I would have a lot of tattoos and body piercing. I would have piercings that I would find more beautiful as a woman. I would be very tall. I wouldn’t have the same job: IT is a job where there are only men. I would surely live alone, it’s easier. And maybe I wouldn’t be that different. Maybe only my worldview would change, because society is very different with women. »
These words are from Djemes, 24, one of the participants of the Masculinities workshops in Seine-Saint-Denis, organized by the artist Lila Neutre at the Fiminco Foundation, In Romainville. On the site of the former Sanofi factories, 16 artists in residence have taken up residence, including this dynamic 31-year-old woman, determined to dialogue with the inhabitants of the district. The workshops take the form of games or playful performances, which reveal their vision of masculinity, or as here, for this exercise where it was a question of answering the question “What would you be like if you were a woman?” », Their privileges as men.
“I rarely see men in 93 wearing pink”
In all four sequences, made of pictures or words, paper or photos. Like the “Pink project”, an exercise in which the participants make their own self-portrait “by posing like a man”. Lila Neutre offers them to be photographed on a pink background, the color of which they can change. “I give them a soft trigger and they can have a mirror. I only discover the image once the negative has developed ”explains the artist.
Lila Neutre slips away from the room, where we are left alone with Djemes, who has chosen a red background, not by “rejecting the color pink”, but because red is simply “her favorite color”. Here he is, staring at the film camera with determination and pulling the trigger. Later, he will explain that his reaction or those of the participants could have been different if they had been asked to wear pink clothes: “I rarely see men in 93 wearing pink,” he hastens to say. .
Adjectives to describe a man
To recruit these men, Lila Neutre published a series of posters and invitations that she left in the neighborhood letterboxes, within a radius of two kilometers around the foundation. The 48 participants came thanks to the posters, which simply read: “Photographer seeks male model”, with a phone number and an email. Their profile? Between 13 and 62 years old, but the artist has seen a lot of young people arriving around their twenties. She estimates that half of them come from popular classes neighboring the foundation.
One of the exercises, which the artist has titled “MD10”, allows us to realize what these participants put under the term “man”. Lila Neutre asks them to give as many adjectives as possible to describe what a man is in less than ten seconds. “Unsurprisingly number one is ‘strong’,” she said. We also find a lot of “intelligent”, which Djemes also mentioned, or even “nice”, “funny”, “beautiful” … but also “stupid”, “ugly”, weak “, opposites.
This appeals to Djemes, also in love with words in his capacity as a rapper, known under the name of Demo: “A man or a woman can be nice or bad, stupid or intelligent, it reflects my vision: a man is a To be human. I consider that there are no differences. “When the artist asks him if he has not all the same perceived a difference in education between men and women, Djemes nods:” My sister had restrictions, she had to return before my brothers, to say with who she was dating. “
Mirror and marabout papers
Sometimes the workshop takes on the appearance of an intimate conversation. This exposure of his human condition encourages Djemes to speak. Here he is facing a lens, for an exercise called “Mirror mirror”, where suddenly the single pane that he had been asked to look at turns into a mirror, letting his reflection see, which he contemplates while the camera is watching it. films. “I’m used to seeing myself. But if it had happened five years ago, maybe I would have been uncomfortable. I was more shy, I didn’t like what I sent back as an image ”he confides, before recounting other events in his life, where he was sometimes confronted with racism, sometimes with impression diffuse not to be “out of place”.
In the last sequence, Djemes must compose a marabout paper, like those which are distributed at the Barbès station in Paris, and who promise to “cure sexual impotence” or to “bring back the loved one” . This marabout paper is supposed to answer the question “what would you like to change about the condition of men?” The result will be screen-printed with fluorescent ink, like the marabou papers of the other participants, and presented during an exhibition in June, at the Fiminco Foundation.