Male® is a South American photographer, painter, illustrator and designer who is currently bouncing around Europe, most notably Greece and Italy. His work often includes penises. Lots of penises. However, if you are able to look at a representation of a male member without giggling like a retarded school boy, then you’ll be able to recognize that male®’s work is brilliant. Not only is he able to produce excellent works with a camera, a pen, and a paintbrush, but he also applies them to a wide range of mediums. Seeing as AWEH has a hard on for the ongoing debate about the distinction between art and porn (excuse the pun), we took the opportunity to chat with male® from his studio in Florence, Italy, to find out why his art is filled with so many willies.
AWEH: Who are you, and what do you do?Male: I am male® and I design, take pics, draw, paint, and run a small eatery. AWEH: Where are you from and what is the creative scene like there? Male: I am from South America but have been far away from there for a very long time. The scene there is quite different from here — much more vibrant, since the crowd is definitely younger; that obviously makes a huge difference. AWEH: Who were some of your early influences, in terms of design, illustration, and photography? Male: Internet, msn, and e-mail accounts came out in my country years ago at the same time as I began my studies as a graphic designer at University; that meant that a big part of my visual culture comes much more from the web than it does from libraries or books, even tho' I enjoy spending time in bookshops having a look at books about photography and illustration.
AWEH: A quick glance over your blog shows that you apply your design skills to a wide range of mediums; where did it all start for you? What is with a pen, a camera, a paintbrush..?Male: It all began when I was a child, about six years old; I got bored very quickly of everything, and spending time with my cousins was not my idea of fun. So my parents decided to send me to the studio of a local artist who ran a little art school. I kept going to it on and off for years, but in the end I got tired of that too. Maybe because of that I still keep all my work very "handmade", even all my illustrations are these days drawn with ink on paper, then photographed and coloured on the computer.
AWEH: There's an awful lot we could talk about from just a quick glance over your blog, so we'll touch on a few pieces that really stood out to us. First off, your recent note book designs show a blend of retro styled wall paper, with mirrored repeating patterns, and pop art style cartoon characters. How did these designs come about?Male: The notebook is just one of the many applications that I have found for a series of ink drawings that I made a year ago; I decided to make a few pics of it, since I don't have a scanner, and added some colour on the computer. The original idea was to make a coloring book for "children", but since the images where a little bit too strong, (or so my closest friends told me when they saw a couple of them printed on tote bags), I decided that maybe the light colors and wallpaper patterns would be an option for showing them in a sort of softcore version.
AWEH: Yeah, some parents might not be into their kids colouring in dicks. Next, the DIY kits are super interesting; what gave you the idea to let people draw your characters for themselves by joining the dots? How many of these did you produce?Male: The DIY series is a series of works that is still in evolution. I have been travelling around the world for about six years so far, taking pics of naked men; I don’t care about how they look, I just care about the fact that they want to be photographed. So I have had the chance to take pics of the most amazing range of men in different countries surrounded by their own environment, their houses, places or work, and even outdoors. I started that series without any specific goal, but later when I tried to show it I discovered that not only is there no market for people buying photographs of naked men, but there isn't even an audience according to the gallery owners.
So I was very surprised when, at the beginning of my master degree in visual arts, my photography professor got very interested in my images, and together we managed to show a big series of them in the Museum of Contemporary Art a couple of years ago. That opportunity gave me the chance to realize the funny relationship that people in general and — especially and ironically men — have with male genitalia exposed in public. (It seems like that attitude can be multiplied by ten if it is not just genitalia, but an erection — huge, in some cases.)
So I decided that the DIY series should still include my photographs, namely the ones of the HARDCORE series (by that I mean, lots of dicks, and plenty of hard-ons). But my idea was also that it wouldn't just be me showing it to people, but that people themselves should find it in the tranquillity of their houses. This is what happens when people follow the numbers by drawing lines with a pencil on the sheets of paper: they get an outline image of my photographs, which can be either a big hard-on covered by a jockstrap, a close up of a guy with a Prince Albert while he takes a shower, or an old man playing with his foreskin.
AWEH: The fake Louis Vuitton bags are just as interesting. Where did you get the bags from, and what made you decide to make something original with something fake?Male: I share an apartment in the city centre which I use as a small studio at the same time as my house. It is just above the central market and lots of immigrants from Africa get money every day by selling those bags, since people still crave for them even when they seem to be made of cardboard. I got a couple of bags from a guy after a very risky operation (since you can get fined for doing it) and decided to paint them just as a joke. But the idea was actually what you mentioned in your question, in other words changing the meaning of the status of the object: the bag is no longer a fake Louis Vuitton but a freshly handmade male® bag. I even sent a couple of pics to LV, but I never heard from them after that. AWEH: So, we’ve pretty much established that there is a recurring phallic theme in your photography, illustration, and design. Why do you choose to draw dicks on your characters and include them into your patterns? Is there a message or is just for fun? Male: There isn't a specific message; for me it is just natural ( it was like that for many years in other cultures thousands of years ago, like in Greece, where the phallus was a symbol of good luck that you could find at the entrance of markets or any other public or private locations). We live everyday surrounded by phalluses: we see one when we go for a pee, or when we take a shower. So for me it is like working with an object that I know quite well and with which people are familiar. As I said before, it is as natural for me as having fun: so I do it for fun then. ART OR PORN? Which is more appealing to you? Male: Porn-art is appealing to me, even when I don't see "porn" any more anywhere. The distinction or the line between the two of them has been debated for a long time. But for me, working with phallic figures and with nudity for such a long time has meant that "porn" has become so natural to me that I can't even see the boundaries anymore between them. AWEH: Well, there doesn't seem to be many mediums you haven't touched, but for the sake of asking what new horizons are you exploring in 2012?
Male: I definitely want to try producing objects with my illustrations: t-shirts would make a great option. But, I am still working on it.
AWEH: How can people see more of your work and where can they purchase it?
Male: I am totally crazy about blogging these days! I guess it is an amazing opportunity for improving your visual skills, getting to know people, and showing what you do to others. You can see how it is all going at www.guaizine.tumblr.com