Annique Delphine’s work explores the ins and outs of feminism, the complexity of sexuality, desirability and thus the idea of appetite and the way it works to construct female identity. Clearly playing into the discussion around feminism and the movements following, her work is extremely relevant today to the point where artistry meets pop-cultural trends and views. Her latest series ABUNDANCE consists of large scale photographs depicting floral landscapes trifled with wax to compose encapsulating stills, set into context by experimental films depicting the exploration of sensuality and thus the conflict when desire meets powerlessness framed by societal pressures.
Titillating, lustful and utterly erotic? Or rather triggering a sense of longing, hope and wishful thinking? Take your pick. Berlin based artist AnniqueDelphine’s series ABUNDANCE says it all depending solely on the viewers own intrinsic emotions. Delphine, having previously starred in one solo and five group exhibitions based in major cities such as Berlin, London and Los Angeles to name a few, has worked her self up allowing her latest series ABUNDANCE to tip the iceberg. PLETHORA a sequel to the artist’s film ABUNDANCE has recently acclaimed best experimental film 2016 at the Toronto Arthouse Film Festival and the Verona International Film Festival establishing the series in the contemporary field.
The artists past experience in the modeling industry places Delphine in a position that allows her to operate within the feminist debate, drawing from her own experiences and oppression. However, unlike the current contemporary scene that is often driven by anti- aesthetics, especially when operating around present-day debates, Delphine’s work relies far more on the idea of beauty and its role within society. Keeping her past self-portraits in mind, her work heavily depends on the ideas of ‘beautiful aesthetics’ to contrast the underlying sadness and deep emotions of her work, that she deliberately hides from the viewer to challenge their own depths of thought.
ABUNDANCE however was a distinct move away from depicting a scenery just pleasing to the eye, as she began to use wilting flowers stepping further away from what is seen as a stereotypical beauty, something she previously seemed to rest on. When talking about the idea of aesthetics Delphine says: ‘I don’t have a problem with my art or any art being aesthetically pleasing as long as it makes me feel. The only time I feel my sense of aesthetics holds me back is when I take self-portraits. With ABUNDANCE the opposite happened in that I started using the discarded flowers from the day before or the ones which were already wilting because they had a beauty of their own and I came to love that and to find it necessary even to have them be part of the landscape.’
Triggered mainly by association, the films clearly create a certain sensation of either a sense of repression or pure desire and yearning setting the context for the photographs within the series. Driving emotion and arousal to the forefront of her work the films often convey a split feeling of either powerlessness as the heaviness of wax forcefully drags at the flowers or a sense of exhilarating eroticism. It therefore becomes questionable whether both sides contribute to the same feminist debate intended to be held or whether pure association dictates meaning to the individual. When asked about intentions Delphine says: ‘In the beginning I wanted them to see my pain and all the longing I felt. But at the same time I knew that as a woman what I felt would be judged differently than it would for a man and so ABUNDANCE became a more general exploration of female sexuality and how I feel female identified bodies are still struggling in a world ruled by patriarchy. NowI just want viewers to feel whatever the photos awaken in them. From arousal to sadness to disgust and anger. All is allowed and all is wanted.’
When viewing the series as a whole the viewer cannot become oblivious to the fact that the title in itself is a contradiction in context within the feminist realm. The positive connotations of plentifulness and profusion which the word ‘abundance’ carries with it alone, seem to drive the meaning of the work more in the erotic direction. Delphine claims that ‘it’s plentifulness that’s turning it into a force of destruction’. She continues: ‘While working on this series the title just came to me. I was feeling too much of everything and I was also in a conflict with myself about the (gender-) roles that I feel society expects me to fulfill, so I was trying to be too much of everything too. It was suffocating so that’s what I was trying to express.’
So perhaps the ethics of what we are meant to believe, the dualism of what is intended and what is felt, is pulled into question. Are we really allowed to see something different then what was meant, even if we see exactly the opposite of what the artist intended? Are those that see differently wrong? She doesn’t believe so.
So perhaps like many famous artists before her, her art takes on the nature of a character and maybe can only be understood through the history this exact character brings with it. Perhaps her art becomes a persona and to grasp the ins and outs of this exact person one has to put oneself in their shoes. Because maybe then people would be able to understand her sense of oppression, or female oppression in general. The same way Yoko needed John and Warhol needed consumerism, Annique needs feminism. Her art relies solely on association as opposed to concept, making it the responsibility of the viewer, to find her story and define her role as a conceptual artist. Personal Association of viewers however are heavily led by own experiences and therefore will redefine her art a new with each viewers own perspective and emotions. Those who really yearn to understand the thoughts and intentions of the artist however will have to place themselves, as a bystander an ally or a supporter within the realm of feminist debate, confront themselves with it if they haven’t done so already, and put themselves in the shoes of her persona. And maybe in the end it is a part of her artistic doing, to intentionally hide behind the pure aesthetics justification of her art, while opening herself willingly and consequently to having her story contradicted and abused, because after all, isn’t that what feminism is trying to portray and battle all the time?
Text by Lili-Maxx Hager
© photo credit Annique Delphine