May 16, 2010

Interview for Polish press, May 2010

Sandra is deconstructing the world

Interview for Polish press, May 2010- By Agata Chabierska.
Thanks for the opportunity! This is one interview I have truly enjoyed!!

Agata Chabierska: You write that you want to deconstruct pornography. Does it mean you oppose it or rather draw inspiration from it?

Sandra Torralba: I would say both - I oppose it to some extent but it also inspires me. However, what I mean by deconstructing pornography, or deconstructing any social construction, has more to do with analyzing its content, form, messages, symbols, roots and elements and separating the whole into smaller pieces of meaning. Once a construction is de-constructed it is easier to understand it and see where it went wrong. Eventually, you can, from the same pieces, construct new reality, perhaps an alternative to porn, to sexuality, to sex, as we know it. Not necessarily a better one, although that is the intention, but at least a different.
Deconstruction is the first step to understanding and challenging established conceptions that we might want to oppose.

A.Ch: Your pictures are bold, shouting and provocative. Do you want to stir people’s emotions or is it the only way to smuggle powerful content behind every shot?

S.T: It’s true that I like to provoke and challenge the viewer and there is some amusement in defying boundaries and doing things that people don’t do, but I don’t consider it to be my main motivation. What I really want to talk about is profoundly humane - something we hide because it’s shameful, fragile, weak or animal. I want to raise questions about what we have come to accept as normal and what we have disavowed. So if my pictures are bold and provocative, it is given by the nature of their content. I don’t consider such form to be necessary but altogether I would not want to convey my messages in any other way.

A.Ch: Media have been lately full of stories about one famous photographer that was sexually abusing his models. Some said it is quite normal with this kind of art. I have seen your auto-portrait where you are surrounded by naked penises and as a woman I felt I have to ask: do you find yourself somehow sexually excited by your work? Does it reflect your sexuality in any way?

S.T: Shooting those scenes is the most anti-sexual thing I have experienced so far. It is mostly funny; there is anxiety, embarrassment, laughter. During sessions we all concentrate on our performance, facial expressions, getting the perfect composition and body posture, so there is nothing related to sex, except that the final outcome looks like it was. I never shoot alone, there are always men and women around and there is no real intimacy or space for sexual feelings. I have never found myself aroused and I have not experienced any of my models aroused by it either. What we do is staged, fake, acting, it is not real.
On the other hand, it is true that my work is very personal but it is not autobiographic. I am talking about my vision of sexuality, not my sexual preferences or sexual life. I see it more as sharing thoughts and raising questions.

A.Ch: So what about those penises?
S.T: The picture you are talking about is connected with things I had seen in porn and our lives in this phallocentric world. In porn, I had discovered bukkake and gokkun and I was confused, horrified and shocked. It came clearly to me that it steamed from a humiliating practice and I could not stop myself from profoundly disliking it. But I always tend to challenge myself into understanding the origins of my displeasure. I explore it, think about it, face it, and once the understanding is complete, free from fear, then I can decide if I still dislike it or not. In the end of the day, of course no one cares about my sexual preferences, it isn’t the point - the point is to portray a reality that is out there. So I portrayed a similar scene to a bukkake, from a woman’s point of view, where you can sense some claustrophobia, some anguish, some puzzlement and taking this as a start point, I want to get people to think and feel about this.

A.Ch: Does modeling on your own helps?

S.T: I impersonate my characters to avoid abusing anybody just for my own thoughts and ideas, for the sake of congruence. I think it would be coward to use a model in my images when I model myself and projecting into other’s would not help me grow as a person. Showing our own weaknesses, complexes, vulnerabilities is a way to reach others. If you disown your emotions, place them in the others, thus protecting yourself from them, then you cannot expect people to be reached by them.

A.Ch: How do you feel naked in front of camera? Is it all natural or a bit narcissistic, exhibitionist maybe? There are many women who would never undress for photos because of self-criticism and complexes. You don’t have any?

S.T: The funny thing about this question is that I have not been once naked in front of the camera with people other than my boyfriend. There is not one shot in the Estranged Sex series where I am completely naked and actually in most, I am dressed, it’s the others that strip! I feel very uncomfortable naked, and it amuses me that I can get away with not stripping and yet that there is a sense that I do.
I can undress to my knickers, but I won’t go beyond that. If there comes a shot where my full nudity is required, I will see what I do. I hope my complexes and fears won’t get in the way!

A.Ch: And what about self-portraits?

S.T: Well, another thing is photographing myself naked on my own. It’s live nudity that embarrasses me but differed one, this is shooting myself naked and then showing the picture, I don’t mind. In a picture I become an object. It is not me anymore but a character from my world and its nudity isn't mine.
To me nudity is a tool, not a goal. I don’t enjoy it, but it is necessary in various shots.
And, of course, I do have complexes, so many it pains me that I am just nearly as insecure as I was as a teenager! I wish we all were less ashamed of our bodies, really, for that they are the only thing we have, we are.

A.Ch: You often touch the subject of woman image - with artificial breasts and vagina, pumping her boobs to make them bigger, trying to be a rock-star. Are you laughing or crying over female chase after some pimped up sex bomb?

S.T: I often touch the subject of people's insecurities related to their own bodies. The pumps or the artificial woman bits represent the pain of feeling imperfect and inadequate. It is sad it is this way but it’s the reality. We feel wrong.
In my pictures I am depicting my own complexes, facing them to see where it takes me. The suction pumps are particularly interesting because one initially might want bigger assets to seduce the “other” and eventually have sex, of course. But these people with their pumps won’t have time for sex, as they are supposed to use these devices 15 hours per day! There is very little time left for anything and it’s very confusing how far we are ready to go because of feeling imperfect.

A.Ch: Would you ever undergo breast enhancement?

S.T: If I ever have breast surgery, I will try to record it all, so as to make it count for something. For me, it will be giving up the fight, but even then, I could still carry on reflecting about what this world does to us, what we do to ourselves. Now, this craziness amuses me too - I love the fact that I, and we, can be so pathetic and vulnerable. Its endearing and I tend to laugh at myself for that.
I seek my weaknesses and complexes and exploit them, use them to make me laugh, to make the others laugh, not out of cruelty but to raise issues that concern me. Summing up, I am not laughing at female chase for perfection, I am try to position myself as a woman that is chasing the same but also a woman that tries to defy it by all possible means.

A.Ch: And what about masculinity in your eyes? There are naked men in the bathroom with measuring tapes in their hands… Are they all one big laugh?

S.T: No, not at all. Like with other pictures, I wanted to express my pity, not in a pathetic way. Empathy, sorrow, understanding, love and pity. Sadness that men should feel just as wrong as we do.
Now, one thing that is important to me too, is to address all these issues with humour, the background ideas are heavily embedded in my understanding of the human beings and their emotional sufferings, but I don't want to make a drama of it all. That does not mean I am not taking these issues seriously, I do, but I also think we can all be ridiculous in our sufferings.

A.Ch: I really enjoyed reading introduction to your “Estranged Sex” project. You seem to be fascinated by human nature and all its natural exhibitions. Yet, aren’t you scared anyhow of the animals inside us?

I am not scared of the animal inside us more than I am of the socialized entity inside our mind. I do fear myself, my feelings and thoughts, and I do fear other human beings. If we talk seriously, there is much to fear. I worked for 5 years within severe mental health units and most of my clients had endured horrors I wouldn't have ever imagined. It made me loose faith in human beings. But then human beings are capable of wonders too, which is very moving.
The animal inside us, on the other hand, is clearer and more predictable and I am trying to rescue it, to help me live a fuller and more natural existence. I observe my cats and I see they are hunters, they kill birds and bring them home to me as a present. I am horrified. But we all know what cats are.
In terms of sex, I do think sexual instincts are on their origins quite healthy and clear. Now, I feel all this socialization we have to go through, makes life way more complex, with all this constructions upon nature that distort it all.

A.Ch: So is pervert always right cause it’s natural?

S.T: No, perversion exists and that is a fact. But that does not make it natural and right. Perversion is perversion and legitimizing it on the grounds of nature or nurture, is just a legitimization. The moral judgment about its rightness is up to us. We are all pervert to a certain degree and we all have to draw a line, a sensible one: something that does not hurt in anyway anybody seems alright to me.

A.Ch: What can we expect from Sandra this year? Some new topics you want to address?

I work on various projects at the same time and Estranged Sex is going to continue. I am planning 5 new images and a video to be done within the next months. They are going to be funny! I am actually really looking forward to doing them. One picture will present S&M scene, another is going to address bisexuality and in the video I am going to be hurt and hit by humongous breasts! And, well, you will see!

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