The French artist, actor, photographer and performer Emmanuel Barrouyer addresses contemporary issues of gender and identity, in his work. He most often uses himself in various staged self portraits, where it appears as if he is himself, but the ambiguity of self and identity are always close by, so that portraits of Emmanuel are often not portraits at all.
Emmanuel's artwork dealing with gender and identity started off in 2013 when he began to impersonate female friends, as in the pieces As Julie, and Boy's Legs. This gave him the impetus to start exploring who we are, and more importantly, who others see us as. How do others identify us? Is it real, or is it delusional. Does it help liberate us, or does it increasingly imprison us?

'As Julie', 2013.

'Boy's Legs', 2014.

In his Statufié! series of 2016, Emmanuel digitally encased himself within classical sculpture, playing with nudity of flesh and stone, sliding scales of interpretation and understanding. Was he producing self portraits of flesh or stone, statued men, or embodied statues?

In his 2015 series U'ReInALonelySituation, Emmanuel explored desire and identity by connecting bathroom graffiti with classical sculpture. Another sliding scale of need and desire in the written scrawls on a bathroom wall, and the disconnected and remote signature of the classical statue. Desire sits within the genitals, just as it sits within the words on the bathroom wall.

In his Silencio series, which he first revealed on the Balaclava.Q site, he has returned to the primal question of identity. Who am I? Why am I? Where am I? What am I? Many of us constantly ask ourselves these questions, and to be fair, many of us don't. Who we are to ourselves and who we are to others, sometimes these identities, sometimes they don't. It very often depends on how honest we want to be with ourselves, and here lies the strength of Emmanuels work. Honesty.

Emmanuel is an artist who wants to know. He doesn't play with gender and identity in order to shock, in order to offend, in order to make a name for himself. He genuinely wants to know who he is, whether he is the amalgamation of the beliefs of others, or if there is something at the core of self that is intrinsically him, and intrinsically knows that it is him, no matter what might be added or subtracted later through the journey of life, and that is something we all want and need to know.

John Hopper


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