Through pictures of plastic boobs, Annique Delphine is trying to point out how much female bodies are perceived as objects, separated from the person. Read our interview with the artist below.
Interview and text by Mahulena Kopecka
Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Annique Delphine started her career as a model. After an attempt to become an actress, Annique decided to study at Neue Schule Für Fotografie where she became interested not only in photography, but also in experimental movies and guerrilla street installations. Ever since, she has become a prominent artist on the Berlin art scene, having exhibited all over the world.
The main themes of Delphine’s projects are feminism, female sexuality and identity, and primarily objectification of the female body. Parts of female body and plastic boobs on her pictures are not only “funny” or quirky props, they signify comments on objectification, omnipresent in both art and media. Her art, often in the form of installations overflowing with flowers, sweets, and anti-stress breasts, usually soaked in sperm-like liquid, thus presents a thoughtful reaction to many current topics of our society.
Annique Delphine is part of the first event held by Bites & Pieces, a fresh new project by the curatorial duo Emma McKee & Tania Olivares. Her installation, called “The Last Supper,” will explore the culture of consumerism and hedonism, and will be (almost) entirely edible. If you’re in Berlin, make sure to come over to the FotoKlub Kollektiv on Nov 4 to witness the extravagant artsy dinner with your own eyes—and taste buds—and don’t worry if you can’t make it – the entire event will be live streamed! Find out more here.
You studied photography, how did you get to creating films and installations?
I build all the sets and props for my photos myself and so I naturally progressed into films and installations. Film came about when I was working on my series “ABUNDANCE.” I made these little sets out of flowers and then poured varnish over them and as I was photographing the varnish moving through the petals, I thought it was too beautiful not too capture it on video. I made two short films to accompany that series and I submitted them to some film festivals and they were selected and even won some awards. So after that I just kept making more and it’s become my general workflow to always shoot both video and photos, and then I make a series of images, GIFs and a short film.
I started making installations in public first because I was building a set by a little creek in Northern England for a picture I was trying to create. The picture didn’t turn out the way I had imagined it but the set looked so beautiful I decided to just leave it so people who happened to walk by it could experience it. After that I started making them everywhere I went and it became my project “Girl Disruptive.”
What was the first impulse to include feminism in your work? Do you think it is possible to change the situation in our society through feminist art?
It wasn’t a conscious choice to make feminist art. I’ve always had this very strong urge to be understood and I’ve always found it really hard to explain myself with words. So I just started doing it visually. First with self portraits and then with other pictures, and because my pictures are always tied to my lived experiences as a woman and because I am a feminist they naturally explore feminist themes.
I do believe that art can initiate social change. If I didn’t believe that I would probably stop making art.
The art world is still very male-dominated, do you have any personal experience with that?
I personally haven’t had any experience with that as I’ve mostly exhibited in spaces run by women.
You work with female sexuality, which is often very overlooked and stigmatized, a lot in your art. Do you think the perception of the topic has improved over the past?
When I first started showing my work to curators the feedback was often that my art was too sexual, too provocative or too vulgar. There’s definitely been a shift in perception because not only do I see a lot more art concerning female sexuality, I also feel like women’s voices are getting louder. More and more are speaking up about their sexuality, their bodies, their choices and their wish for autonomy.
Many feminist artists choose similar themes, which are automatically associated with feminism – boobs, flowers, pastel colors. Aren’t you worried that the meaning might get drowned in all the similar art work?
I see a lot of pastel art and art with boobs or with flowers and yet they all have something unique because every artist has their own aesthetic and their own way of expressing themselves, and there are very diverse messages attached to these themes. I actually feel like the pastel and floral aesthetic pulls people in – at least that’s what it does to me.
Flowers are one of your signature motives. What does nature mean to you? Do you perceive it as somehow connected with the theme of femininity?
I think to be nurturing or life giving is still a trait society views as strictly feminine and we also call nature „Mother Nature“ , so we automatically connect nature with femininity. I touch upon this in my new exhibition The Last Supper. I see parallels in the ways we exploit nature and femme bodies. We take so much from nature without respecting it or without asking ourselves whether we are even allowed to take. Flowers are a perfect example of that: instead of letting them grow wild just they way they are, we grow them in huge greenhouses, then cut them before they have bloomed, then we sell them. We buy them for our own gratification and we treat them as objects. I don’t think this is far off from the way women are treated.
Your work contains a lot of pink – why is it exactly pink color that is so often used by feminist artists when it’s so often criticised that pink is unnecessarily and ridiculously associated and gendered as a “girly color”?
I can’t say why others use it but I use it because I love it. It’s a very organic color to me and even after all the time I’ve been working with it it still makes me giddy with happiness. My favorite color is actually green but pink comes in a close second.
The whole thing with pink has become huge. A sort of reclaim for everyone who has been judged on the grounds of not living up to their perceived gender roles. Now I see it as the color of a movement. A revolution even.
You have a lot of experience from the modeling industry, which is built on objectification. How do you reflect that experience in your work?
I’m still heavily influenced by my time working as a model. Sometimes I take self-portraits deliberately trying to look unattractive but then I often don’t have the courage to actually post them. I still have this deep urge to always look pretty and skinny and attractive and „commercial” in a way. I don’t know how much of that stems from modeling and how much from the general male gaze that still dominates so much in our culture. So a lot of my work is actually me trying to figure where I stand in all of this – when do I feel objectified and when do I objectify myself?
Through this process I came to working with flowers and with those rubber boobs I always use. Everything I do kind of builds up on top of each other.
Exploring objectification led me to using „Girl Disruptive“ as a way to shed light on issues such as slut-shaming, gender based violence and rape culture because I believe those are direct consequences of objectification. I make my flower installations in places that have a historical context to women’s struggles and then I’ll photograph them and post about it explaining how it relates to a specific person or a specific issue.
In one interview you talked about taking self-portraits before the phenomenon of selfie became a trend – you took pictures of yourself because you needed to believe again in your own beauty. Do you think that photography, self-portrait in particular, can help us to discover and know ourselves in general, not only in terms of our appearance?
I think it’s a fantastic tool for everyone to explore who they are. We like to define ourselves in relation to others and with social media we have a wide variety of options to curate our own image. Self-portraits are almost always a part of that. I can only speak for myself, but even just pushing the boundaries on how I portray myself has helped me in my self discovery. I have learned so much about my own strength and fears, and I have a much clearer view of the things I want to change about myself and none of them have anything to do with my physical appearance.
What are your future plans?
I have a one night only exhibition called The Last Supper at Fotoklub Kollektiv in Neukölln on November 4th. It’s curated by Emma McKee and Tania Olivares and it’s going to be wild. It will be a fully interactive installation, kind of a performance piece, that every visitor is a part of; and I can’t wait to see how far people are going to take it.
After that, I plan to take some time to create new work. I will probably turn into hermit for a while and then come back with something big and loud and pink.
( y )