South likes: Juergen Teller at DESTE, Athens


Juergen Teller, Macho, installation shot, 2014, DESTE Foundation, Athens. Photo: Stathis Mamalakis

South likes: Juergen Teller at DESTE, Athens
DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece
21 June – 29 October, 2014

Text by Michelangelo Corsaro

Who better than Juergen Teller could undertake a restyling of the notion of macho? He knows well, as a talented artist and fashion photographer, the cliches that define and nurture the sentiment of masculine pride. He is a celebrity as well, and doesn’t mind focusing the attention on himself with a series of self-portraits, in which he grants himself the freedom to define his persona regardless of normative gender roles. The title of this exhibition, curated by Marina Fokidis, although ironical, proves once again the photographer’s well-known sensibility and experience. For in Teller’s hands, the stereotypes of masculine domination that generally define machismo go topsy-turvy, overlooking glossy muscles in favour of bulging bellies. Whereas feminist discourse has generally confronted hypermasculinity, these photographs rather succeed in reforming it, offering an emphatic imagery and formulating alternative models. Whenever he tries to measure up to the manifold stereotypes of the macho, Juergen Teller immediately fails. His imperfect body cannot keep up neither with the idealised perfection of classical example from art history nor with mass media standards; on top of this he cannot resist the temptation to pull faces in front of his own camera. Yet, with an extreme sense of carefree self-determination, he defies all of these impossible models of masculinity at once. Portrayed on the back of a white horse, he looks like a happy cowboy rather than like a dreadful gunslinger. If he is macho at all in these images, he chooses to be so with an extreme irony that invests his body and his identity altogether. In this extensive and introspective self-research, Juergen Teller’s manliness emerges from the acceptance to be just a man: a tender one, who snuggles on Charlotte Rampling’s laps; a funny father who knows how to use ketchup as mock up blood; a worthy son, standing next to the tomb of his father with a beer in his hands. The body of self-portraits exhibited in Macho creates a very intimate perspective on the private life of Juergen Teller in a similar, if not anticipatory, way to what the selfie has recently become. However, whether the phenomenon of the selfie has empowered people with an increasing control over their self-representation, Juergen Teller have relinquished any concern with the perfection of his appearance—and he did so already in the 1990s, way before the first iPhone was released. His photographs offer a pointed counterpoint to the increasing easiness in taking, publishing and distributing self-portraits, with an extreme ease in being portrayed as he collapses on a roasted pork. It might well be said that, despite the efforts put into exposing manly humanity and weakness (or maybe exactly for this reason), the show succeed into presenting a genuine and spontaneous take on male identity, wiping out in one go all the negative connotations of machismo. And regardless of the irony and the self-mocking attitude, it might as well be said that without the shadow of a doubt Juergen Teller is a solid man.


Juergen Teller, Macho, installation shot, 2014, DESTE Foundation, Athens. Photo: Stathis Mamalakis


Juergen Teller, Macho, installation shot, 2014, DESTE Foundation, Athens. Photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Arena Homme Plus

Juergen Teller, Masculine, No. 6, London, 2013, C-print

Marc Jacobs

Juergen Teller, Ohne Titel: Juergen Teller, Cindy Sherman, Marc Jacobs, No. 5, (Marc Jacobs campaign Spring/Summer 2005), 2004, C-print

Juergen Teller Personal

Juergen Teller, Louis XV, No. 9 / Self Portrait with Charlotte Rampling, 2004


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