I think they are the gardeners. The women hang up their underclothes. I am just the observer. I cannot produce the underwear myself. I am the person who explains the piece when viewers ask questions. Many people have come several times to see how the garden is growing.
JD: Why is male underwear not included?
Men’s physiology in general doesn’t get the same degree of attention as women’s. Men’s underwear doesn’t have odour and they don’t consider it of much value. Ladies underwear, on the other hand, has been regarded highly for a very long time. There is a famous story from the middle ages, in Belgium, about a poet who used to perform in front of the king. If the poem was well received, the poet would receive the underwear of the queen.
JD: Is this piece designed to help women liberate themselves from sexual repression or is it geared to provoke male desire?
I think there are two sides. Some women are positive, very independent, and very secure about their sexuality. They love the work because it’s not about the image of the women. It concerns an aspect of existence that is closer to the identity of a person. At the same time, fetishistic desire does not only exist in men, it also surfaces in women. Many women have told me that they really like this kind of work. Some have told me that wearing white underwear is like having a boyfriend, only better. It’s a big decision to surrender their underwear, not because of shyness, but because it involves losing a part of their identity. Men don’t have this kind of attachment to underwear. It is only worn for practical purposes, for protection.
JF: How have people interacted with the piece? Do they use their eyes, their noses, do they touch the underwear?
Many people stop in the street and watch through the window. They are very curious, whether or not they consider it in the art context. Men feel like, ooh, like its some sort of dream.
JF: What about women?
Some give their underwear. Others just leave.
JD: Questions of intimacy definitely arise in this work. To be so close to someone else’s worn clothing brings up issues endemic to private space not only as an intellectual exercise but viscerally, involuntarily.
This intimacy creates a kind of catharsis. People always have desires. This installation is a strategy to create intimacy by getting around the processes of talking or inviting someone to dinner. Love, for me, is only an excuse to get involved with sexuality. I’m trying to shift this idea of love by making work that disconnects the subject of sexuality from love. As a Buddhist, I don’t have such a struggle between the two.
JD: Do you consider this work to be a critique of the disciplined structures set up by society, a transgression against the behaviours and rules that people must abide by in order to know one another?
I think it’s about people being honest about their own sensations. But people really are afraid, they have to find an excuse to indulge in these passions. With art, they can feel freer and deal with this information more quickly. If I asked women for underwear for my private use, who would give it to me? No-one.
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