They’re talking about the project

Bernard Minier is a photographer and curator of the festival “Regards sur le Corps” at Arles, France

Idan Wizen, whom we have chosen to exhibit for the twelfth edition of the “Regards sur le Corps” festival in Arles, is a talented and inventive young photographer.

We were also won over by his participation in a shooting workshop for festival visitors.

His approach, which is part of a tradition of popular photography, seemed, to me and to all the festival team, innovative and generous, based on principles that can only unite and make it essential.

His work is based on a modern aesthetic taking shape thanks to a solid, precise technique, but never restrictive for the people photographed who lend themselves to the photographer’s goal.

The asserted color and light codes shape his art, immediately detaching Idan’s work to make it identifiable without confusion, and to positively distinguish it from an international production sometimes difficult to define.

Its strength is its universality, the same codes addressing everyone, leveling political, religious or social origins…

A great lesson in good citizenship. A human and sensitive photograph turned towards the others, Idan gives to share a beautiful example of openness. The fact of receiving without criteria without exception gives all its force to the concept, and will give birth to a large collection and will leave a sociological testimony that will count.

The legitimacy of this work will be done over time.

The interest of the general public, which is increasing in number each year to support the artist’s positive and modern approach, as well as listening to the institutions that frequently associate this young photographer with their programs (festivals, galleries, shows) are signs that do not deceive.

Recognized today, artist Idan Wizen will be essential tomorrow.

The French Society of Plastic Aesthetic Surgeons (SOFCEP) has just published the book “Surgeons in a world that operates the image. Collection of artists, philosophers, doctors, politicians… on our society and our relationship to the body and image. Here is an excerpt from an Interview with Idan Wizen about the project Un Anonyme Nu Dans Le Salon.


Showing up, accepting yourself? Who’s That Nude in the Living Room?

Photographing anonymous people naked. The initiative immediately brings to mind the great happenings organized by the American Spencer Tunick: crowds dressed as Adam and Eve offering themselves to the artist’s lens. But the approach of Idan Wizen, a young 26-year-old photographer, is in a different register. His “anonymous” people, far from melting into a human mass that dissolves them, that makes them all similar, reveal their uniqueness by posing in the most natural and most difficult costume to wear. Anonymous? No, unknowns, who are not in search of fame or celebrity, but in search of themselves in an aesthetic and personal process shared with the artist-photographer.

Genesis of a project

April 2009. The desire to create, to propose an artwork halfway between art and advertising is making its way. Idan Wizen launches his project “Un Anonyme Nu Dans Le Salon”. The idea: to photograph strangers in their simplest clothes. “There is no casting, no selection criteria. Everyone can come, young, old, tall, short, thin or muscular, fat or thin, tattooed, scarified… “. All those who want to be photographed can contact the artist. The only constraint, that they accept the contract: naked photos, which hide neither the face nor the glance. Only one, the best, will be kept and will be printed in eight original copies. It can be presented during exhibitions, sold to amateurs who wish to exhibit “an anonymous nude in their living room” and diffused on the net. If the beginnings were laborious, word-of-mouth is now working well. There is no lack of candidates. Some even come from abroad… To date, more than one hundred and fifty portraits have been made. Idan Wizen wishes to continue the experience to gather a real book, multiethnic, which summarizes, let’s be modest, humanity… No weariness, nor repetitiveness in this work? “Even if the poses are sometimes very close, each model tells his own truth, each photo is unique” certifies the artist. “We are all similar and all different… This project is universal. To better fight against the standardization of aesthetic criteria. ”

The artist, an awakener

I always wondered how mentalities evolved, by which mechanisms the representations of the world were transformed, confides Wizen. Why, at one time, an idea is not socially acceptable, whereas a few decades later, it is obvious to everyone. Let’s take the example of women’s suffrage: it is an irrefutable principle today, but a century earlier it was the subject of violent controversy. “To seek to understand the forces of this “collective unconscious” is also to study the means to modify it. Because he handles images, this son of advertising (he holds a master’s degree from Sup de Pub, Paris, and graduated from the University of Arts in London) has chosen the image to operate, in his own way, the way we look at the world, and thus participate in changing mentalities. “Art can change your way of seeing more powerfully than a political speech or an essay, he says. If you are opposed to an opinion, all the arguments in the world, even the sharpest, will not make you change it. The image on the other hand touches the sensibility, the unconscious. Advertisers have understood this well: they create images and unconscious identifications to better conquer their audience… We call it an emotional benefit. ”

Stripping to enrich

One of the first astonishments of Wizen is the ambivalent look we have on our body, object of all our attentions in a society of appearance, but also object of dissatisfaction, complexes… “. Today the young people have for reference top models, who are not only beautiful by nature, but whose photos are retouched and embellished. “The body, the real one, with its defects, is compared to these perfect, idealized, unreal bodies… Even the one who knows that these photos are reworked is unconsciously led to take them as reference. Mirror of this ambivalence in relation to the body: the ambiguity of nudity in our society. “It is enough to stand for a quarter of an hour near a newsstand, which displays photos of lascivious and enticing women on the cover of porn magazines, to see a veiled woman pass by, concealing her hair perceived as an unacceptable bait. How are articulated in our world, a pornographic relationship, exhibitionist of nudity and an exacerbated modesty? ”

It is thus on the real body, shown in its simplest device, that Idan Wizen wanted to work. This is how the project “Un Anonyme Nu Dans Le Salon” was born. This project puts forward a third questioning: on what is the basis of attraction. Not sexual attraction, but the attraction of two beings. Why do we find this woman attractive, why does this old man seem beautiful to us, why does this person seem nice to us? What is it in her body, in her look, that captivates us? Because there lies the originality of Wizen’s work. He does not photograph nudes, he photographs people. No faces buried in the hair, no heads shown from behind… The look is there, which is said, which is expressed. And which expresses itself all the more intensely undoubtedly that the body is undressed. By the unveiling of the body, deprived of the ornaments which “denature” it, Wizen seeks the deep reality of the one who is in front of him. He breaks the shell of appearances with which each of us dresses. After two hours, two and a half hours, after long discussions during which he tried to approach his model, from pose to pose, the right expression, the authentic gesture, the liberated look emerge little by little. When you are naked, you can’t act,” says the artist. One is obliged to be in confidence… The person undresses to then be dressed in light. “People who look at my photos in exhibitions linger on the faces. They are never going to look at it as a porn picture. They are captured by the expressions. “Expressions that turn out to be natural, smiling, attractive but outside the sexual codes (enticing, eye-catching…)

Ordeal or therapy

And the model in all this? Some photographers like to insist on the benefit of the pictures they propose. By seeing themselves magnified by the lens, the models are finally able to find themselves beautiful, to love themselves, to accept their body and its defects. This “phototherapy” would aim to help each one, by assuming the benevolent glance of the photographer, to adopt this same glance when it is reflected in the mirror. “Of course, in order to take these photos, we need to establish trust. Before the shooting, we talk. There is a little psychoanalysis side. People often reveal very intimate secrets to me. They reveal themselves. But I do not grant to these interviews a therapeutic virtue. I am not a therapist,” Wizen admits with humility.  I only see most of my models once and am not in a position to know what this has released in them. Some write to me. It seems clear that being in front of the lens has changed something for them. A bit like when you decide to skydive. Before the jump, one is petrified by anxiety. After the jump, we feel a jubilation. You have taken up the challenge, you are proud of yourself. My models had arrived worried, they leave with a feeling of lightness… Many of them show the photo to their relatives. They are proud to say: “look, I overcame my modesty, I overcame the societal pressure and I assume”.

Overload to reveal the void

If nudity reveals, Idan Wizen is attacking, in parallel, another project, which again, highlights the role of the awakener of the artist. To come, the series Just buy it in reference to a famous brand, will be a reflection on the consumer society, the society of excess, where the overflow of goods suffocates life and paralyzes the reflection. Excess creates emptiness. “It will be a parodic staging of our society with, for example, a photo where we see a woman’s arm emerging from a pile of shoes or a dozen women who kill each other for a shoe… “.

The mystery of the look

It is one of the photographed men who says it: the naked body magnifies the glance. Is it because one is stripped of his clothes, that a certain form of modesty, brings to divert the glance of the body of the other to contemplate only his face. The same phenomenon is observed in the naturist circles where the simple fact of walking in its simplest apparatus leads the practitioners to see in the person whom they cross only the eyes. The paradox of the nudity: a short-clothed silhouette calls the eye to undress it, a naked body calls, on the contrary, to cross the glance of the other to discover its interiority. It is through the gaze that one enters Idan Wizen’s site. The first photographs presented show only faces. Faces that express themselves. It is only by visiting the site further that one discovers that these faces are cropping of a photo of a nude on the same level…

A photographic project by Idan Wizen, “Who’s That Nude in the Living Room?” shows strangers who have agreed to pose in their simplest clothes. Founded in 2009, the project aims to bring together several thousand models of all ages, all sizes and all horizons, in an artistic and committed approach.

By Camille Bordenet

“Undress the world to look at it differently”: this approach has animated the Franco-Israeli photographer Idan Wizen since April 2009. Originally, a simple idea: what if we looked at people as they really are? “The best way I can find to drop the costume figuratively is to drop it literally,” he says.

Thus was born the concept of “Who’s That Nude in the Living Room?”. Why in the living room? “The purpose of the works is to be hung and visible to everyone. What better place than the living room? “. A title that aims to offer an alternative to the framed photos at home, “cousin’s wedding type, where we are all dressed up, in a conventional pose with a frozen smile,” likes to explain the 28-year-old photographer.

“With this title and these photos, I hope that each purchaser of artwork can see the model who has delivered himself 100% as an imaginary member of his family; like the person he wants to confide in, to tell about his life, his successes and his failures. A concept between the imaginary friend 2.0 and the completely naked psychologist at home! ”

A dotty great-aunt and a psychiatrist have been exchanged for ordinary men and women who came with the desire to bare their soul. The “aède”, “L’escrimeuse”, “Le rappeur”, “L’anachorète”, “Le quantique” are part of the 384 anonymous people who posed between 2009 and today for the five successive series of the project: Genèse, Persévérance, Arles, Obstination and Névrose, the current series.

Each body can become a work of art
To glean these models with “real” bodies, the absence of casting is the golden rule: “It must come from a voluntary approach, I do not want to select professional models. Each body has its place to become a work of art”. So how do you hear about the project? “By word of mouth or by its visibility on social networks”. Then, the applications are made directly on the site.
The recipe seems to work since Idan Wizen realizes six to eight photo sessions per week, each lasting two and a half hours. Before each shoot, the photographer gives the model a half-hour interview to find out about his or her motivations, fears and a bit of history. “Probably because they are suddenly afraid, many models retract and stand me up”, regrets the artist.

Chritophe Colera has a PhD in sociology and is a researcher associated to the laboratory of Cultures et Sociétés en Europe of the University of Strasbourg (CNRS-Uds).

Besides, he graduated from L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and has a Master in Philosophy. He published different works and academic reviews on nudity, particularly “Nudity, practices and meanings” (Editions du Cygne-2008) which gained fame far beyond the circles of academic research. His work on subjective identity concerns natural déterminations as well as cultural constructions and spans a wide scope including the history of philosophy. See particularly his work “Individuality and subjectivity in Nietszche’s Works” (Editions l’Harmattan-2004

The feeling that the representation of nudity in the public space has become widespread, even commonplace arose longer ago than it seems as it has existed for more than half a century. Nowadays, however, it goes with new and sometimes conflicting tendencies as the same people may at the same time feel both willful to “democratize” nudity and concerned about protecting themselves from it.

The “democratization of nudity” can be defined by this propensity–evidenced by the surveys conducted–many people have to show off either part of their nudity or all of it, not only in the private sphere but also, and more and more frequently, in the public space when they strip off to stand up for political causes, humanitarian actions or simply for their jobs. But what is really meant by “democratization of nudity” is that will to put within everybody’s reach the expressive power of nudity without fearing the ridicule or clashing with the academic aesthetic canons. The plastic beauty of nudity was formerly almost exclusively granted to a limited and Young proportion of the fair sex (painters’ models, dancers, movie stars, “pin-up’s”–more rarely to the male sex. Nowadays beyond genders (men, women), age groups and physical types (of all sorts of sizes and measurements), there emerges a claim–widely conveyed by some media, to acknowledge to any individual their own charm and to make it possible for this beauty to be revealed “in all nudity”, stripped off the clothes accused to confine people to artificial roles and postures. A lot could be said on this longing for the « right to nudity » and chiefly for the “right to the beauty of any nudity” as well as on the age-old Western imagination linking truth and stripping.
At the same time there is a paradox in the persistence and even sometimes increase of the feeling of uneasiness in front of nudity, one’s own and often too, others’. There remains in our societies a fear of the (sexual) lust still strongly linked to nudity, the fear of the confusion and violence caused by Eros – from fits of jealousy to rapes, through so many other forms of psychological domination. The Christian taboo of concupiscence has been somehow turned into a « functional » fear of the drawbacks of sexual attraction (intensified by the general hygiene prevailing at a time when virus propagation–from Aids to bird flu-keeps bodies apart from one another.)

Still more subtly, one must remember that the relation to one’s own body is never as clear as the “freest” minds would like us to believe. Our body remains a tool, a sort of extension of our conscience which the latter can look after; a raw material one may hope to modify according to one’s own identity or plans but which remains mostly “unchosen”, mortal, subject to aging and disease, riddled with hereditary characteristics and on which even surgery has only a limited power. One can’t but do with it and if the social standards should invade the public spaces with ideally measured top-models (most of the time considerably touched up thanks to data-processing), the limited power one has on one’s own appearance becomes a cause of inhibition and even guilt as more and more people are inclined to track down the so-called defects of their figure (or of their skin) and conceal them. The weight of such burden is all the heavier since the consumer society puts in the body values once more mental as the care for the image scrutinized in its tiniest detail replaces that of words, style, and eloquence once in the heart of conversation.

And then one mustn’t either neglect this age-old phylogenetic legacy still ill-known to our relation to corporal figures, touch and smells, engraved in our genes and probably still evolving nowadays though in unpredictable directions under the progressive reorientation of our senses within our modern world: this reorientation arouses new shunnings and polarizations especially visual ones (we no longer have so frequently as the hunters-gatherers of yore or even our ancestors of the previous century, the pleasure of smell and natural flavors, effort, contact with animals–apart from our dogs and cats–but our eyes are more and more attracted, among other things, by billboards). This present relation to bodies thus mixes attraction and aversion in a complex way and according to circumstances. So there is a large dark area of physical relations difficult to put in words, which adds to the memories and projections from the childhood, to the optimization imperatives of the time lived through and to the minimization imperatives of the cost as well as the rationalization imperative of actions, all that leading to an appeal to modesty regarded as a protective armor.

From that compost there stem out supports to revived religious speeches (those of monotheisms as well as polytheisms such as today’ s Hinduism) that advocate body concealment as proof of daily self-control and mental open-mindedness to the vertical dimension of transcendence (which often gives a meaning and consistency to difficult psychological and corporal experiences particularly that of uprooting). It also fosters a more unreligious speech about the « respect of others and oneself» by obliterating the flesh.

Young artist Idan Wizen who introduces his works in this book didn’t hesitate to confront himself (and his outstanding talent as a photographer) bravely and boldly with those conflicting aversions and aspirations, which out times cultivate in the relationships between beings. Looking down on the easy photographs of models for whom nudity is merely a “professional” costume, he offers “anonymous” models, as he puts it, the opportunity to pose in their birthday suits and proposes to whomever wishes it to buy this work of art for a relatively moderate price.

It is a considerable challenge as he often turns the sitting into an effort to surpass oneself that may really prove heavy-going. A number of the photographs he displays in this book are conquests, the trophies of the victories won by the amateur models over themselves and the others’ look, which endows them with that human value of theirs. It’s also the mark of an aesthetic triumph to make spring up of the body matter in the rough and the most entirely given to the public, what is the most intimate, what it reflects of the most personal story and sensitiveness of the model–and because those expressions caught in the split second of a snapshot are very often what is most intimate, what is most specific of the individual facing us, they also are what is most universally moving. They are somehow closely akin to what is commonly shared by all the members of our species (a fund that mixes our genetic dispositions and the flood of the experienced interactions that cement a human unity beyond all specific characteristics).

This project of Idan Wizen’s initiated in Paris in 2009 contains an aesthetic power which is obvious when you read the book–a reading that cleverly combines the power of the image and that of the verbal testimony of those unveiled “anonymous” models who can never be treated as simple objects as they re-appropriate their experience through their speech.

Its societal or social potentiality shouldn’t be forgotten. Because through the magic of the lens, each and every one of those who try the experience of stripping when showing themselves as they are, with no other device than the shot, the choice of the scenery and of the pose, suddenly becomes worthy of the central place in their neighbor’s living-room. Here, art assumes at its highest its function of the daily transubstantiation somewhat like Courbet’s brush at the time of the Angelus. And if through this process, the picture of the average man’s body becomes for each of us likely to replace the Venus of Milo’s or the Apollo of the Belvedere’s, there’s no doubt that the works of this young artist could very well not only contribute to a generalized questioning of the academic canons in society (as it has already developed for a long time in the artistic avant-garde) but could also open up the way to new forms of relations to oneself and others that might even bring about a new social link. Behaving with others as if they were works of art should in fact logically enable people to go further than Kant’s “categorical imperatives” (the moral rule) that imposed always to consider man as an end and never as a means.

The nude rediscovery during the Renaissance in Europe may have contributed to the propagation of humanism… with all the social and political transformations it may have involved… Who knows if Idan Wizen’s gesture is not relatively speaking, mutatis mutandis a medium for similar phenomena? Unless it deals, however appealing those photos may be, only with fragmentary pictures, representations “among others”, all the others which, in the collective cultural background, contradict them and which they couldn’t outclass…

The reader is the one to judge and decide!