Aleksandra Karpowicz is a London-based visual artist whose work focuses exclusively on the human form and behaviour. Her ‘Let's Talk About Sex’ project has won two Awards at the National Open Art Competition UK. Aleksandra has been working through the medium of photography, as well as exploring interactive and public installations and performances to discuss the topics of sexuality and body image through the perspective of the female gaze. She studied photography at the University of the Arts London, and was shortlisted as for the Women of the Future Award in Art and Culture.
Her approach aims to reassert the beauty in the human form. Human physicality, sexuality, and identity in today’s mass-media age inspire her projects. Aleksandra seeks to depict difference across a wide social spectrum. She works against the current trend of unnatural digital manipulation of the body that supports mass media’s tendency to perpetuate one “ideal” form. The art she produces necessitates a dialogue that can allow for a wider acceptance of diversity and equality.
My work channels the female gaze to address wider concerns about human physicality, sexuality, and identity in today’s mass-media age. My artwork understands that the standards of taste, beauty, relevance and value have long been debated without women’s voices. Yet, I do not confine myself to making art about exclusively women’s issues. I photograph both men and women, but I explore a new way of photographing the body that is beyond the dominating objectification of the male gaze.
My projects seek to develop the female gaze in photography beyond the initial Body Art movement. I wish to employ the strategies of Body Art to dissolve the dominant perspective of the male gaze on the human form, to restore agency to the subject and the viewer. Whereas mass media shows a tendency to perpetuate a socially constructed “ideal” and erase the presence of diversity, I work against the current trend of unnatural digital manipulation of the body. Modern society’s objectifying eye traps itself in a contradiction. It exposes us to one ideal look that is inconsistent with reality and suppresses the representation of the majority of forms. This results in two effects: a lack of self-acceptance and lack of tolerance towards others. One form of this is seen in age discrimination—there is no room for the bodies of people who are no longer young, and this provokes self-hatred through aging.
I seek to confront the visibility bias in nude photography and to represent all types of bodies—to show the inherent aesthetic beauty in nature that is interrupted by society’s standards. This art is in essence my call for a new wave of the body art revolution that first emerged in the 1960s that will focus on inclusivity. The art I produce necessitates a dialogue that allows for a wider acceptance and tolerance for diversity and equality.
'Let's Talk About Sex' is a project based on the psychology of sexual behaviour and its relationship to social values and politics.
The project as a whole can be appraised as an on-going psychological experiment based on the work of Alfred Kinsey's books ‘Sexual Behaviour of the Human Male’ and ‘Sexual Behaviour of the Human Female’, in addition to research by other academics in the field of the Human Sexuality. The literature and the data they disseminate provides a unique insight into how people behave sexually, which is determined by factors including gender, age, sexual orientation, background, and religion.
The discussion of sex pervades as a taboo on an almost day-to-day basis throughout most cultures. If the debate is ever raised, it is never normally extended beyond the gay or straight paradigm. This suppression is heavily influenced by personal assumptions in regards to what is morally acceptable and what is considered deviant. Social conventions, cultural & religious prescripts, social environments and the law further add to the list of taboos.
When it comes to sex in mainstream culture there is a big generalisation towards this topic, namely ‘PIV’, penis in vagina. Although there are appearances in media on how disabled people, fat people or trans people have sex, they are still treated as the margins, an not integrated as normal. I am speaking out for all to be seen as equals.
We need to change the definition of what sex is, and what it means to different people. All of us need to remember: Every person is different; everybody looks different, works differently, feels different, and responds differently.
The art project ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’, allowed for openness from the participants, highlighting a long list of sexual deviations, most of which the general public are completely unaware of. This also corroborates with Kinsey’s experiments.
For ‘Let's Talk About Sex' I selected 200 project volunteers to represent a wide social spectrum in many respects. The participants ranged from 11-76 years of age and represented a broad selection of genders, races, backgrounds and sexual orientations.
The volunteers were firstly interviewed and then photographed—a smaller selection had further interviews that were audio recorded. The photo-shoot involved participants engaging in the psychology of role-play. The volunteers were allowed to portray any character they wished. Their choice of character did not necessarily portray their own sexuality, but did however reflect a subconscious alter ego. The impulses for creating these personas were based on a whole range of experiences, from desire, fear or a curiosity to a reaction against a particular idea.
Interestingly, the participants wanted to share their stories and felt they needed to be heard. They desired to express their thoughts, feelings, traumas, joys, etc. They were all prepared for the challenges they set themselves. This was a means to liberate their bodies, to leave the trap they’ve been forced into by morality.
The candidness of the artworks humbles the audience with its honesty. They are challenged to rethink their views on other peoples sexuality as well as their own. This will seek to break open our abilities to hear out difficult and uncomfortable content, to shed a light on the tangible roots of sexual diversity as investigated initially by Alfred Kinsey. The variety of stories portrayed will attempt to open one’s opinion to a broader context, where just one story might lead to a biased judgment. Visitors will understand sexuality beyond the frame of their own subjective experiences.
Initially the expectation of the project was only to take photographs. The interview material prior to the photo sessions became just as important and relevant to the project. The dialogues between the artist and model were mostly about the choice of alter ego the model wanted to be portrayed as. In all cases, the interview elaborated to anecdotes, life stories and much deeper insights into the volunteer.
The project has transformed into something larger after photographing over 200 volunteers. There is a continuation in the relationship between the artist and the models that pushes the subject matter further. The photographs act as both a final work exploring the aesthetics of sexuality, and as documentation of the process of delving into the participant’s inner lives. The project is thus extending beyond photography into a performative audio-visual installation piece. Here, the model has a larger role in which their audio and video recordings become the raw material for an interactive exhibition.
My goal is to create a social revolution through art to bring back our bodies, to balance the scales with an honest look at physicality.