BEAUTIFUL MEN by Marcello Bonfanti
curated by Daniela Boni
With artist jewellery produced for Susanna Maffini’s atelier
by Seulgi Kwon, Ana Hagopian, Myriam B and Paola Volpi
April 30th – May 31st, 2014
WE MADE FOR LOVE, Via Lodi 25, Turin Opening: April 30th 2014, at 6.30 pm
Starting from April 30th, the cultural association Made will be hosting BEAUTIFUL MEN, a photographic project by Marcello Bonfanti. It is a visual narration of a journey in three countries of three different continents, Cuba, China and Tonga, in pursuit of the intimate discovery of a universal dynamic: the assertion of a gender identity which differs from the biological one. On the occasion of the exhibition four contemporary jewellery artists will produce customized works, specifically created for the event : Seulgi Kwon (South Korea) will interpret Beijing with jewellery created in silicone, Ana Hagopian (Argentina) will interpret the mood of Tonga with her jewellery created in paper and Myriam B (Italy) will interpret Cuba with her creations using varied materials; finally the designer Paola Volpi, will produce jewellery with industrial filters as a tribute to the world of drag queens.
The journey begins in Cuba, in the secret chambers of San Isidro, a popular neighborhood in la Habana where, at night, men, like crysalides, turn themselves into women. They perform in illegal shows, advertised at the last moment for a restricted audience, in secret locations chosen from time to time, to avoid state censorship (still active in 2004, when these photos were taken) and macho culture. The journey continues in China, in the backstage of gay cabarets in Beijing, where some groups of drag queens have recently come out, after having secretly kept alive for decades a centuries-old tradition: the interpretation of women's roles by men, a tradition that was born with the Chinese opera and was later suppressed by Mao. The photographer eventually investigates the centuries-old tradition of the Polynesian Fakaleiti, considered to be the third sex in Tonga. The Fakaleiti are male children that, by their choice or by their family’s choice, are raised as females. This might meet the child's spontaneous inclination, or the desire for a female child in a family with only male children. The Fakaleiti, integrated and respected by the Tongan society, perform the task of pageboys in the royal family. In the photographic project BEAUTIFUL MEN, the burden of conventions is shaken and we are delivered into the unconscious of the protagonists, where the psyche prevails upon the biology and turns male into female, a process in which the body becomes inconsistent with the mind, bringing out the melancholic desire for the reconciliation between form and substance. A form, which aspires to harmony, but never fully achieves it. In this process, the dress acquires not only a practical and aesthetic sense, but becomes the symbol of affirming one’s identity. A process clashing with the idea of a biological norm, questioned by these images and presented as a mere expectation, not as something universally valid. The only universal thing captured in these images is the recurrence of a dynamic manifesting itself all over the world, drawing upon symbols, aesthetics, traditions and indigenous culture. A culture that sometimes represses and hides, and sometimes accepts and integrates. The intensity of the images by Marcello Bonfanti comes from a profound study of the history of painting. The composition in Renaissance style and the lights, often Baroque, isolate the figures from the context, giving them dignity and emphasizing the identity of the characters. It is often a suffering identity, harsh, tormented and seeking affirmation through the accurate construction of an outer beauty, which erases the original self. The artist uses the immediacy of photography to tell about the joy following the pain of metamorphosis, the lightness of appearance erasing the heaviness of introspection. The images contain an often contradictory duality, characteristic of the human race in many other areas; a contradiction that Marcello Bonfanti was able to capture and report with sensitivity and respect.
WE MADE FOR LOVE Cultural Association – Via Lodi 25, Turin