Emil Balesic graduated from the Visual Communication Department at Beckmans in 2017. In “Freedom; Isolated”, his graduation project, he examined gender expressions by means of moving portraits of people who sustained an independent approach to norms regarding masculinity and femininity. He considered it to be a sort of breathing space for everyone who might need it and described it as “a proposal for a place that one can become inspired by and where one can recover from the demands that refuse to allow us to be limitless and free”. In this project, he has chosen to examine queer masculinity from his own perspective with focus on the bulge, a well-known symbol in this context. For him, it stands for an all-embracing masculinity and he has sought to find a method for inviting the viewer to see what he sees. “As the fashion world opens up for more inclusive gender expressions, I feel that there ought to be room, too, for gay perspectives of the male body.”
In the images included in this project, I have examined masculinity from my own, personal perspective. I have not thought about masculinity in relation to femininity but, rather, have tried to portray a nuance of masculinity; one that stands for something that feels secure. After watching a documentary about Robert Mapplethorpe, I began increasingly to think about the male crotch as a symbol of what I wanted to communicate. Or, rather, the bulge of the covered genitalia. I wanted to find a way to show what the bulge means to me personally and to invite the beholder to see it with my own gaze, from a gay context. If Mapplethorpe’s images are often explicitly sexual with references to a world of fetishes, I wanted my images to soften our view of the male crotch. As the fashion world opens up for more inclusive gender expressions, I feel that there ought to be room, too, for gay perspectives of the male body.
Since I have worked in a very personal manner and have taken myself as my point of departure, the issue of representation has not been as important. That is not where I have laid the focus. I am not present in the images myself, but I have collaborated with three of my friends. I have tried to capture something that I perceived in Mapplethorpe’s images: they reveal something hard but, at the same time, they are covered by a soft veil. I wanted to achieve something similar; a feeling of something gentle and veiled, perhaps a little secret, to get the beholder to enter my personal perspective on masculinity. In order not to distract the gaze from what is central and in order to create a limited surface to work with, I chose to remove all of the faces and to crop the images fairly strictly. I have also softened the surface with the help of lighting and of various camera angles so that it no longer seems so head-on. Also contributing to this softening are the relatively relaxed poses of the models which consciously break with the rhetoric of the fashion magazines. Rather than glamourizing, I have sought to create something ordinary; a sense of something cosy and secure, almost a feeling of home.
In order to increase a sense of ordinariness in the images I have dressed the models in garments that are rather quiet; they are ordinary clothes for an ordinary guy. I have also sought to allude to a certain sort of gay culture in which the regular guy is fetishized. Not that I have had a specific idea with each garment, but the images contain sexual couplings and codes that are obvious in a gay context. The styling is a gay version of the regular guy. What intrigues me about this type of “dudeness” is the way in which, from a queer perspective, it is sometimes perceived as problematic – a desire to fuse with “ordinariness” – at the same time that, for me personally, it stands for an expression with which I really feel familiar and secure. I grew up in the little naval town of Karlskrona in a family with roots in Bosnia and with somewhat more conservative values than the surrounding society. Examining my background has been interesting in finding nuances in a notion that haunts me, the idea of being a bad queer while, at the same time, feeling at home with this.