Editor’s Note: This piece features various images of the nude/ full frontal male body. Please experience this interview in appropriate spaces, i.e., probably not at work or other related professional environments.
Varian Viciss is an artist.
His canvas is his body.
During a Skype interview with The Writer’s Bloc, we discussed Viciss’ eccentric passion, the naked body and self-perceptions of maleness. This is part of two of his story.
Q: When you chose to share your photographs online, what was your motivation behind that?
A: I have this drive to communicate ideas through the pictures and to communicate, not just about the body, but about art and life in general. It sounds kind of cliche and cheesy, but I have this sense of missions, almost, not to make the world a better place, but just to kind of inspire with that. I do get emails and short messages on Tumblr or Twitter where people say how much they like the project and how it gave them self-confidence. I’ve had quite a few might write me that it really helped them because they always see those hunky people and their big dicks, and basically they felt inferior, and doing a project like that helped their self-esteem. That’s something – I really like to get that kind of feedback from people. Those kinds of things inspire me and keep me going.
Q: How do you pick the settings for your photographs? A lot of them are outside, so how do you come across these locations? Do you go to a place and say, “Oh, this is a good place” or do you just kind of happen to stumble across them?
A: Both. Sometimes it’s just a flash of inspiration. I am at a place and I think, “Wow, this is a cool setting, let’s see if I can do what’s really spontaneous” and I think I have an idea about this and I’ll do a self portrait here. Other times, it’s like I have a list of ideas of where and what kind of self portraits I want to take. That takes longer planning where I think I want to do something, for instance, on a cemetery, so I look up which cemeteries would be accessible and lend themselves to that kind of photo. Or I have an idea where I want to do something with the skyline of London, so I’m researching which hotels would work with glass windows. Or I have an idea to do something in a cafe, so then I’m actively contacting some cafes who do art exhibitions or little things. I tell them about this project and ask if I could do something after hours or before opening at your place. So some of them are really carefully planned and I have the idea and concept of it first and I look for the setting, and some are just spontaneous: I walk somewhere, I go somewhere and I think this is brilliant.
Q: You were talking about how you’re comfortable in your own body, but everyone has those days where you’re really not comfortable in your own skin – you have a pimple or there’s something you just really aren’t pleased with. So how do you overcome those days?
A: I think that those are the interesting days. Yeah, I feel like crap; I don’t feel particularly attractive today; or I just have an emotionally bad day. To work with that, actually, in the photograph and to actually show that because I think, as society, we have this bad habit of always trying to hide things which we don’t like about ourselves.
We try to push away feelings which are uncomfortable, and I think that isn’t very helpful for all of our self-esteem. You then get the impression that everybody else is perfect except you – because everybody else is doing what you’re doing. What we’re all doing is hiding the imperfect parts and putting up as perfect a front as possible. Part of this project is to not do that. So when I feel bad and when I have an off day, I incorporate that in the pictures. Sometimes, yes, that takes courage or feeling uncomfortable with myself and not really liking the picture in terms of that I look good in the picture. but that’s part of the project. I show pictures where I think I really look bad, but that’s okay because we all look bad on some days or when we wake up in the morning or with a hangover or whatever. So I want to show that, as well.
Q: Those are all of my questions unless there’s anything else about your project or in general that you want to tell me.
A: I think the only thing I would add is, when you look at what I’ve done so far in this project, I also play with the gender roles and there are pictures where you could – whatever it means – that this is a really gay picture or this is a crossdresser picture or this is a really typical male shot. So I’m kind of playing with different boxes, so to speak, that we generally put people in. Over the course of this project, I actually do not want to conform to one box. “Oh this is the guy that shows the femininity in the man.”
Yes, that might be part of it. Or, “This is like gay art.” I don’t have anything against gay art but I think I have a problem with labeling. I think we all do this type of self-labeling. We often box ourselves into certain identity constructs. Part of this project is also to kind of not do that and to present identity as something that is more fluid, more flexible, more changeable. That’s maybe one of the main things I want to communicate over the whole project.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Varian Viciss’ Tumblr.
Maya Pottiger is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.