No Man’s Lands / ISTVÁN (2019)
No Man’s Lands / ISTVÁN (2019)
'No Man’s Lands (2016-present) is an on-going art photography project that uses a collaborative approach to convey the stories of male-identified persons (cis and non-cis males) in limbo situations due to political, social, mental or economic factors. In this project I have attempted to diminish the control I hold as a photographer over the photographic process and outcomes, relinquishing it, to a great extent, to the subjects. It is an attempt to give the subjects greater control over the ways their stories are told.
'Preceding each photoshoot are long conversations with participants about their motivation for taking part in this project, the story they would like to tell and how they would like to tell it. In all the No Man’s Lands series, the participants, through these conversations, choose the photoshoot locations, the outfits, and the ways in which they would like to be photographed. My role in these conversations is as an advisor – helping to fine-tune choices, suggest various possibilities that the participants might not be aware of and evaluate together whether the imagined outcomes will tell the stories the participants want to tell. After the photoshoots, the process is repeated but in reverse – I present the results and the participants express their opinion and ideas of how the photos represent them and their stories in the best ways.
'This process has resulted in a multiplicity of photographic and aesthetic approaches that to a large extent are determined by the subjects. The photographer’s “signature look” is replaced in this project by the imagination and intentions of the photographed subjects.
The project also looks at the inherent nature of the photographic act, arguing that in essence - the creation of space in which time and place are suspended - it is indeed a space of limbo or of the no man’s land.
'Yet photography, like these in-between spaces and situations, engenders instability and transformation. This project attempts to use this instability - the momentary negotiation between the photographer, the camera and the subject to break down these ‘fixed’ positions.
'With the support of Art Council England, part of the project was exhibited for the first time in a solo exhibition at Greatmore Studios, Cape Town, South African in February 2020.
“I am non-binary. For me, it means, not having any rules, not laying myself in any templates. Allowing myself to go above and beyond the gender norms. I do not believe you can only have a couple of choices on your sexuality and attractions. I attract myself to the feminine side more because I do believe women have more freedom of expression. So you might call me a gender bender. Part of the freedom I feel in my female persona is the possibility to be excessive, over the top. I do it with unrealistic makeup and style of clothes, it makes this transformation magical yet real, it shows that gender is easily changeable.
I’m Hungarian and I grew up in Serbia, which at least until a not long time ago, concepts like personal freedom and creativity were marginal. I lived in a small town and always yearned to go elsewhere, [somewhere] bigger, freer in which I can explore and express my desires and creativity. So I have been living in Brighton for about three years now and it is such a vibrant and colourful city that offers great freedom and opportunities.“
Discover more about Istavn through Instagram.
About the artist
Gil Mualem-Doron is an award-winning socially and politically engaged artist working in various media; primarily photography, digital art, installation and performance using participatory practices. His work investigates issues such as urban history, social justice, identity, transcultural aesthetics, migrations and displacement. Gil is the founder and director of the Socially Engaged Art Salon.
You can view more of this artist's work on his website, Instagram or Twitter.