Friday, December 20, 2013

Black Cat in a White Cage

I began this blog talking about gender and sexual politics. I was in affiliation with Liverpool and the project Transvoyeur, a cultural initiative in liaison with Liverpool and New York. The early 2000's had given way to that very subject matter given the time before when Camille Paglia and Naomi Wolfe were on the forefront. Women were at an advantage. They made their convictions felt in politics and pop culture. The artist and the muse took on a different meaning. The artist became a pornographer and the muse a sex muse. The transformation brought in question the body of the female, whether it was an object the artist drew from (literally and figuratively) or a canvas the artist was free to manipulate. Women were empowered. There was a great proclamation in fashion and the sex industry. The business of sex grew to a fascination on the internet. What began as girl power became woman domination.

Somewhat compelled, I took on the drive to define myself politically as a man, lover and artist. My thoughts revolved around perceptions in the art world, topical issues and how I responded to them. The animal that was the artist lived and breathed in me. Circumstances surrounding my living situations gave way to my critiques. I inhabited an area in New York known as Washington Heights, a place that subjected itself to criminal behavior and drug culture. These circumstances made their way into my home. I lived with ruthless roommates who were into that type of behavior. And so I was on the edge most of the time. It fed into my artist concept, more or less the tortured artist.

Transvoyeur met its end with our Gender, Space, Art and Architecture project. I had discovered Facebook which took my attention away from keeping this blog. The internal struggle was great, dealing with street culture and maintaining a philosophical blog. Indeed more or less having a home and a place to live was the quagmire. That was my problem and these were the people who shared apartments with me. Given the hellish moments and time spent I secured my talent as writer. Through Facebook I discovered Whitehot magazine which allowed me to do articles and interviews on some of the most interesting subjects in avant garde art and music and fashion.

I later moved to the East Village where I got a greater sense of art, the hipster culture and at the time a growing sense of entitlement among the youth living in the neighborhood. My living situation was the same. I couldn't afford an apartment of my own. So lived with the same crew of people. Those who barely managed and were streetwise and drug abusers. That was always the difference that separated me from the art crowd, the strain and edge in my life, the struggle to have inner peace, the stress at home. I was identifiable in this crowd as unique, perhaps strange abut likable. People were fond of me which lead to a relationship with a Brooklyn artist after many years of being chaste. This circle changed when I moved to Inwood, Upper Manhattan, due to the storm Sandy.

Currently living in Harlem, I am faced with black politics and black culture. In a way the streets reflect my internal world having lived the way I did for nine years. What makes me unique is that I have an acceptance of a white upbringing and fatefully brought into a black culture. As a black person I am currently confronting my black persona after decades of Euro/American philosophy and sexuality, a complex which makes me different from most because I absorbed what I learned through white circles but had the courage to confront myself as a black person.

It's an ongoing process where I'm less the animal of an artist but a thinker and writer recovering from years of torment, shook up and made to feel free now, accepting my past as an experience but willing to move on with my new persona, which is made up of experiences in a white world, currently I live in a black society.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Originally Published in Whitehot Magazine

by Kofi Fosu Forson

Petula Girndt is a Berlin photographer who also serves as virtual muse to those who follow her on social media. Her photographs promote Romanticism. She captures sultry and self-reflective effervescence in the use of models who translate her emotions and feelings through the camera lens. These images suppose self-identity at times sexual, persuasive as roles shift in gender. As a female protagonist, Petula renders her subject matter from a feminine perspective. They are at once lush, permeating the senses, presenting physicality more transforming than gratuitous. She projects the nature of woman not as object rather implementing a source for regard as majestic, defiant and amorous.

Silk on the Skin and a Kiss…!

Kofi Forson: Petula, I love your name. It sounds like a flower. It reminds me of Lolita, Nabokov’s novel, a name unlike any other, somehow feminine and full of power and sexual identity.

Petula Girndt: I am a photographer with abandon! I’m a loving woman with abandon! I’m a mom with abandon! My eye is constantly at work. I love to catch each feeling for a picture. I love music. It makes me happy, helps me when I’m sad and torn. I love the warmth of a human body. I love to flirt. I love to dance. I’m a funny person but also very emotional. It’s hard to find the balance. My son brings me back to earth when I tend to fly too high. This is the most difficult time, to hold all these feelings in for a photograph.

Forson: They say genius is a combination of mathematics, science and the arts. What role did men play in your life? You have a twin brother.

Girndt: I truly love my brother. We’ve been through some tough times together. We even lived and shared a flat. It all helped to shape me, made it easier to deal with men rather than women. I love testosterone around me. My father left us when I was 12 years old. We’re in touch now unfortunately not often. But honestly genius is a state of mind. I can strike genius if I have to. I don’t see it as genetic. Because I’m really bad at mathematics but my 9 year old son seems to be really good at math.

Forson: I come from twins as well. My youngest brothers are twins. But also my mother grew up with five brothers. Describe for me who you were as a young girl?

Girndt: I was wild at heart but quiet, playful, sensitive, angry teenager. My life now is a “whim of nature” as we say in German.

Forson: You apply aesthetics very well in your work.

Girndt: Everybody needs something to wear, to dress up. It’s our second skin. We can't go naked all the time. So I like suggesting a sense of fashion in my photographs. Plus I like stockings and silky dresses. The aesthetic I got from my mother. But I have a good eye for it.

Petula Girndt, Lovers, 100x70, on aludibond, edition 3/3, (+1Ap)

Forson: Your photographs are shot in black and white. Are times they are stark, deeply rooted in contrast. But sometimes there’s an aura which gives off a blurred effect. This is evident in the photographs which feature two men and a woman at play, Romeo and Juliet and also some of the uniquely depicted images of women defining their self identity. What is your interpretation and essence of the female and male body?

Girndt: I have no interpretation for the body. I photograph my feelings and also put a lot of physicality in the scene. Physicality is what makes us human. Movements, gestures, all of that… They find perfection in the seduction and smoothing of the body.

Forson: It’s fair to say three of the most important images of women are Eve in Garden of Eden, The Madonna and Mona Lisa. How has history served us in sexuality from Eve to the modern day?

Girndt: I love Eva from Garden Eden. She was already lascivious without being loud just pure seduction. This is me. This is who I am. It is the exact opposite of the marketing machine in pop music industry.

Forson: Do women own their bodies or are they subjecting themselves to a world of art and sex pimps?

Girndt: Women have the opportunity to determine for themselves what they do with their body. It’s been this way from time immemorial. Cleopatra knew how to play this game. What’s missing is self respect from one person onto the other.

Forson: The words “pornography” and “fetish” can be attributed to art. I get the feeling you are more than an artist.

Girndt: Pornography, fetish… all these stamps. Let’s get rid of it. We just need sensibility, blend together and rush away on the wings of passion.

Forson: Do you ever live out your fantasies in your work? How does photography help you achieve that artistic orgasm?

Girndt: I don’t live out my fantasies in my photos. I would never show it to the world. It’s not like a carnival party. I show just my deepest feelings!!

Forson: You remind me of Ellen Von Unwerth.

Girndt: I love Ellen Von Unwerth. All her photographs have a lightness and sexiness. There is a feeling of fun and joy. My work is subliminally more melancholic.

Petula Girndt, Daydream, 100x70, on aludibond, ediion 3/3 (1AP)

Forson: We come into this world nude but we exit clothed. Would you prefer to live in the nude or wear haute couture?

Girndt: I prefer silk on my skin and a kiss!

Forson: New York artists tend to end up in Berlin. Berliners fantasize about New York. What do you know about New York? Why would you want to live in New York?

Girndt: I like the atmosphere, the never sleeping city, the openness of culture, subculture and the people. New York promises an inaccessible dream of freedom, possibilities. I don't know, maybe it’s a big fairy tail I need.

Petula Girndt, The Dancer" 100x70, on Aludibond, edition 3/3 (1 AP)