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Text & photos JF. Pierets
We meet at a terrace on a sunny day in Antwerp. He says he forgot his cigarettes, I say I don’t have any but maybe he can ask one at the table next to ours. Seems that he’s too aware not to step into the “another Moroccan is asking for a cigarette” cliché. Ever since he was a kid, he tried to avoid any stereotypes. Carim Bouzian, 29-year-old, entrepreneur, into politics, Muslim and gay.
Where you raised to be beyond the scope of any cliché?
Yes and no. I was born here so I feel completely Belgian, never had the perception that Morocco is still ‘my country’. It’s a great country to go on holidays and my cultural background lies there, but that’s it. Yet my mother always had an ambiguous conflict in our upbringing. On one hand we had a very Flemish education. We were not allowed to talk Arabic to avoid an accent, but on the other hand she had her own baggage and influences from when she was young. So you can imagine the division. We were brought up very liberal but sometimes it bothered her because it was hard to recognize herself in her kids, mentality-wise.
And your father?
My father passed away but I still remember it was very important to him not to be restrained by boundaries and nationality.
And how is your relationship with your mother now? Because at one point you had to tell her you are gay.
I have a very strong connection with my mother and one day she told me that all my anger, all my tensions had nothing to do with her, but with the fact that I had to concede I was gay. So you can say she did my coming out, but that also means I always had the feeling it would be no issue. Since we were young she always told us we could marry whomever we wanted to, regardless of gender and nationality. As long as we were happy. The only rule was not to get in touch with the justice department.
Considering your upbringing, weren’t you a stranger among other Moroccan kids?
Very much. I was always the one who said it didn’t matter being gay before I even knew it myself. Seems like I was ahead of my time there.
Are you religious?
I believe in something from which there is no tangible proof of existence. It’s based on a feeling so I’m not the kind of religious person who thinks he has all the knowledge. For me, an intelligent believer is an agnostic. The Koran says that Christ has never been crucified and in Christian faith they say he has been. I’m not into this dogmatic thinking so I don’t want to mingle in that kind of discussion. These scriptures are written by witnesses and people who were around and we all know how news facts can be twisted for the better.
So you are more a spiritualist?
Sometimes believing makes you a bit of an anarchist. When you say that you believe in something above us, but you don’t believe in dogmas, you state that everybody is equal. This society is filled with categories and leading job positions but I never felt there was somebody who could tell me what to do.
You are, in spite of any dogmas, a follower of the Islam, so is it not forbidden to be gay?
That it’s forbidden is not quite true. You have the Koran, the first source, but then you also have the Hadith with the traditions of the prophet. In these scriptures there are verses to be found regarding homosexuality. The men who were allowed to be near the prophet’s women, were men who didn’t feel any passionate desire towards women, who wore jewelry, men who behaved femininely. Those are stories we find in the Islam. That is also why transsexualism is allowed in so many Islamic countries. Because one way or another the prophet acknowledged the existence of a third gender. Yet it’s been interpreted that you can’t stay a man if you are homosexual. For instance in Iran, homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment or even execution where transsexualism is legal if accompanied by a sex change operation.
I don’t say that’s correct, don’t get me wrong, but it shows that in the early years there had been possibilities that are now entirely degenerated. Next to that, you can read a lot of stories regarding intersexuality in the Koran. They condemn sodomy in the story of Lot but that story is about violation of integrity. It’s a story about straight married men raping other men, about taking away someone’s honour. That had nothing to do with homosexuality.
Do you know why a lot of Muslims believe that homosexuality is wrong?
A lot of people have a blind faith in what’s been told and 99% don’t even know the content of the Hadith. They go to the mosque and believe what they hear instead of doing some research to check if everything is true. In essence, that’s where people go wrong. You have to keep an open mind and you have to do your investigation in order to be sure of what you believe. I keep on saying it to other Muslims; keep on analyzing things, keep on delving in consideration of the truth. Because there’s a huge difference in scriptures from a thousand years ago and present creeds. And don’t forget that in the dark ages, Europe pointed at Arabia for being decadent, for it’s poems about homosexuality. Today we’re looking at a moral inversion. The Islamic world is now pointing at Europe for being degenerate. Isn’t it about time to raise awareness of the fact that it’s no one’s fault? That someone’s sexual character is just a given?
You seem to know a lot about it?
I really want to inform people on the true story. How is it possible that a religion who is so anti, who even practices death penalties regarding homosexuality – mind you they consider homosexuality as adultery and you can get stoned for that – doesn’t properly verify if that what they hear is true. Even the punishment of stoning is never mentioned in the Koran. I consider this lack of knowledge, a large shortcoming of the Muslim community. We live in a place where millions of documents are available so use it, because otherwise you lose the core message of your religion. Let’s not forget that the greatest followers of Jesus and Mohamed where people who lived on the sideline, small groups. Contemporary religion doesn’t allow these people any more. They condemn them. When you reckon everything and everybody being wrong, it results in a religion with too many taboos. And the more taboos you have, the less you can develop yourself. It’s the largest brake of all because it leads to deterioration of the community.
You take a stand on the subject matter and you talk to people in order to change things. Why this commitment?
I always felt the urge of doing something. I can’t handle injustice. For me it’s a natural reflex to react on unreasonable and unjust behaviour and not only because I’m gay. When I compare myself to other gay men and women I can say I had it quite easy, yet I have to take a stand by some kind of inner pressure. Sometimes my mother complains about it, asking me why I always have to enter into a discussion, but I can’t help it. I put a lot of effort into explaining but I also react on things I hear or read, when dogmas are randomly spread. Not everybody likes that and I’ve had more than one death threat in the past.
Yet that didn’t hold you back to keep on going?
On the contrary. I got more motivated. It depends a lot on how you look at it. The Moroccan community is not just one community, there are several. The Islam is what binds most of them but not all of them are practicing Muslims. Most of the time it’s only the conservative wing that’s not keen on my interferences. The more liberal people think it’s a good thing. I don’t say they agree, but at least it’s tolerated to have another opinion. And then you have the left wing, which are of the opinion that you have to do what you got to do. It’s not all as black and white as people think.
You triggered a campaign regarding homosexuality within the Islam. Can you tell me something about that?
I promoted a poster campaign for acceptance of Muslim homosexuals. The image showed two gay boys and two –girls. Needless to say it wasn’t fully appreciated but those things have to be done. Some gays are confronted with extreme reactions and I feel addressed to try and make a difference. Everybody has to have the guarantee to be safe. That’s a basic human right. You can’t change things by just talking about it, you have to act. And yes, call me an idealist, but I’m motivated, and hopeful.
And isn’t that the perfect combination!
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Text Nora van Craen
Bart Moeyaert is internationally famous for his work as a poet, a writer, a translator, a lecturer and a screen writer. He once mentioned on television (on ‘Reyers Late’) that society is often overwhelming, that one is alone with one’s thoughts about that, and that it is not always useful to keep on smiling all the time, pretending one is invincibly strong. I could not agree more. Hearing just one of Bart’s quotes was enough to make me realize that he has ‘a certain something’; something that makes him read between the lines of a story. That is why I was not satisfied with simply looking at his Wikipedia page to find out who he is and what he does. I wanted to experience the essence of his inner reality, a reality located in between the lines of Antwerp’s dazzling energy. So, on a sunny, yet rainy Tuesday in sunny, yet rainy May, I managed to meet him in person at the Grand Café in Antwerp. The result of that meeting was an A to Z about Bart Moeyaert, in which I will share with you some of the finest moments of our meeting, some of his unforgettable quotes and some important facts about his life.
Astrid Lindgren, a Swedish author best known for Pippi Longstocking, is one of the significant writers that influenced Bart. He even calls Lindgren one of his grandmothers. He cherishes Aidan Chambers’ ‘Dance on my Grave’; a comforting novel about two boys experiencing deep friendship which blossomed into love. This book inspired him to scrutinize his personality and his story telling methods. Bart lives in Antwerp. He was the official poet of this vivid city in 2006 and 2007. ‘Africa Behind the Fence’ (1995) was his first picture book for children. The illustrations were created by Anna Höglund.
He was born in Bruges, Belgium, on the 9th of June, 1964. As the 7th son in the family, King Baudouin by tradition became his godfather. In our conversation I mentioned the fact that the number ‘7’ regularly appears in his stories. Interestingly, this fact was new to him. “Blood, sweat and tears are fantastic, so are ugliness and shortcomings,” Bart says when it comes to the difficulties of writing. “Unfortunately, most of us are raised to think that blood, sweat and tears are to be avoided because they are unpleasant.”
Bart is i.a. known for his children’s books. The fact that people expect that children always get a message or a lesson from a story makes him nervous. “That is not the way one ought to deal with children. They are not adults yet, there is still plenty for them to learn, but in the meantime adults should not think about them as if they were ignorant or naïve. They can deal with a lot more than adults tend to think. Think deeply about how you were yourself when you were eight, and you will realize how you dealt with adult matters.”
With ‘Duet with False Notes’ Bart made his début. He was just 19 years old when he wrote this autobiographical novel. This book emerged from the diary he kept when he was 14 and 15 years old. While reading Bart’s stories, I noticed some sort of distance to the facts, of what has taken place in between two pages. Bart says he would not call this distance. Instead, he believes reality is not primarily constituted by the objective facts of the environment, but by impressions and by one’s thoughts between the lines. He escorts the reader around the covert mind of the main character of the story.
Together with illustrator Wolf Erlbruch and the Dutch Blazers Ensemble Bart is writing a trilogy: ‘The Creation’, ‘The Paradise’ and ‘The Heaven’. ‘The Heaven’ is to be published in 2014. In this trilogy a story meets music in a most harmonious way. Not only did he read the Bible to do a background study for ‘The Paradise’, he also made use of gardening manuals to understand why, for example, a tree loses its leaves. The story is very sensual: Eve does not resemble the biblical Eve, she has more of a ‘Lillith’ appearance.
Bart wants to be free: he does not want to label people or things, nor does he want his own work to be labeled. When he wrote his début, he never intended for it to be read by young people in particular. He never even thought he was going to become a children’s book author! It was his first publisher who told him an author’s image is important, his being the image of a children’s writer. It took a while before he realized he himself had to determine his writing style and path. “When I am writing a book, I might think the story will probably be read by, say, 7-year-olds, but that’s it. I only know the story I am going to tell and I have some thoughts about the shape or format.”
Graz (2009) is a story about Herman Eichler, a pharmacist living in Graz, Austria. One day, a young woman has an accident in front of Herman’s pharmacy. This crucial moment in Herman’s life started off a deep thought process about the man he really is. Is he a homosexual, for example? Bart wrote the largest part of this story while staying at Graz to give lectures. ‘Graz’ was written for the Antwerp theatre group ‘STAN’. Bart was nominated for Gaypersonality of 2011.
In 2011 Bart was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for the 4th time.
‘Iemands lief’ (‘Someone’s Lover’) is Bart’s version of ‘l’Histoire du Soldat’ (Stravinsky, Ramuz), written for a narrative performance with top violinist Janine Jansen. It portrays how a soldier cannot resume his normal life because the war has changed him too much. In a similar manner, Bart was so harshly transformed by being a city’s official poet that he could never return to 2005 (see M). “Feeling this sledge hammer blow made this book so much more important to me.”
During his stay in Japan, one of the countries where he has been giving lectures, Bart experienced an astonishing moment in a huge store: “In the middle of the computers department I felt euphoric: Japanese was written all over the place and I could not read anything of it and nobody knew my language. In my bag I carried a book which I was able to read, but the funny thing was that it was a Dutch translation of one of Coetzee’s books. This interwovenness of languages and the realization that I am constituted by languages, which I do not mind at all, made me euphorically happy.”
The Boekenleeuw 2013 award goes to Bart’s ‘Knock Knock, Who’s There?’ (‘Wie klopt daar?’). This is his 6th Boekenleeuw; he also won one for ‘Kiss Me’, ’Bare Hands’, ‘Its Love We Don’t Understand’, ‘The Creation’ and ‘The Milky Way’.
Bart is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. The title of one of Bart’s books is ‘It’s Love We Don’t Understand.’ What he does understand of love is that we are raised to think that the concept of ‘man-woman-child’ and ‘house-garden-dog’ is our target, while the reality is totally different. More interesting than what he himself understands of love is the question why we decide to be with someone after that one spark, he says. Why do we make this choice so quickly, while there might be many other people in the world whom we may be compatible with? When Bart met his boyfriend, he made it clear that there are multiple loves in his life: his love for him and his love for writing. The one cannot live without the other.
Bart married Robin Steins in 2006. During Bart’s career as the official poet of Antwerp, it was not easy for him to see eye to eye with the world and its constantly reproducing misery. He wrote a poem, ‘Woman and Child’, about the tragic racist murders by Hans Van Themsche in 2006 and read it out loud at Luna’s funeral, the murdered child. I ask him if he thinks that such a ‘blackened heart’ (‘zwartgeblakerd hart’, used in his poem ‘Lighthouse’) is useful to an artist. To Bart, an artist lives multiple lives: he sees many more things from many more perspectives and tries to describe everything to himself in order to digest it. He sees things he cannot cope with and it gets under his skin, forming that blackened heart. Through writing, a poet can digest his misery.
“Now is the moment in which we live. You can only finish the writings you are writing now,” Bart says to me. We were talking about how important ‘trying to be as good as possible’ was to the family he was raised in. I wanted to know how it felt to him, now that he has achieved the status of a successful writer. According to him, ‘At which mountain top would I like to arrive?’ is the most harmful, paralyzing thought to every newbie in writing. Bart did not commence his writing career thinking ‘How am I going to carve this out?’ or ‘How am I going to do this perfectly?’.New York is where he would like to be now if I were able to teleport people. Last year, he stayed there at a writer’s residence to work on his new book.
In 2006 he narrated the story of Olek in the musical theatre production ‘Olek Shot a Bear’ with the ‘Flemish Radio Orchestra’.
Together with Elisabeth Broekaert, he published ‘Let’s Stick Together’, a photo book with eight of his poems about love. In 2001 the poem ‘Small’ appeared on the side wall of the theatre house HETPALEIS (Meistraat, Antwerp). Broekaert witnessed some weddings with her camera. She took photos and watched the love that had just clinched in its own way.
Most of his books were published by Querido. ‘The 27 Questions Interview’ provides you with non-trivial questions and witty facts about Bart.
Many meaningful concepts return in his stories and poetry. For example, he often writes about lighthouses. “In Antwerp, I find the image of a lighthouse important. It is a beacon to know there’s something over there. You can avoid it, but you can also approach it. A lighthouse says: ‘come here’. If you do not want this, then tear down the lighthouse. So if Antwerp wants to be a port city, there has to be a lighthouse. ‘Come here’: you are meant to live with it whether you like it or not.”
Bart decided not to have children because of the society we live in. He knows that he himself is capable of dealing with insensitive remarks about homosexuality, but one can never know if a child would be able to do the same.
This year he celebrates his thirtieth anniversary as a writer. Congrats, Bart! The only diary Bart isn’t fumbling with is his tumblr. Visit bartmoeyaert.tumblr.com or read his tweets at twitter.com/bartmoeyaert.
Many of his poems carry just one word as a title, like for example ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘Choose’. ‘U’ (‘you’) probably has the shortest title of them all.
Michiel Verberne was the pseudomym he used at the age of 14. When one of his poems got published in a children’s newspaper, De Stipkrant, nobody believed it was his.
‘Plint’, a publishing company which gives poetry a creative twist, has made a window poem of the playful rhyme ‘Once More’ (‘Weer eens’). Window poems are printed in white on transparent plastic and can be stuck to a window. On Bart’s website (www.bartmoeyaert.com) you can find a contest section posing a different question every once in a while. The winner gets one of his works for free!
“It is important to write for yourself. You should not try to please others by writing. I am not saying that you have to write as if you were the only one to read it, but you write a poem to yourself without considering person X or Y’s preferences. This implies that you allow yourself to be astonished. One has to make peace with one’s way of proceeding.”
Bart lives at a stone’s throw from the Antwerp Zoo. In collaboration with the Antwerp Zoo and the city project ‘O Dierbaar Antwerpen’, the Royal Film Archive compiled a unique anthology depicting rarely seen footage of a bygone age. The first images date from the 1910s. Among others, Bart Moeyaert wrote some reflections on those images.
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Text JF. Pierets Photos Caldwell Linker
The Haus of Haunt is the Pittsburgh based drag troupe around Sharon Needles, a self-described “stupid genius, reviled sweetheart, and PRB princess,” rose to prominence on the 4th. season of the reality competition series, Ru Paul’s Drag Race. She quickly became a favorite and media darling, lauded for her refreshing alternative “spooky” aesthetic and self-deprecating humor, and was subsequently crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar” in April 2012.
In The Haus of Haunt: Watch Children, photographer Caldwell Linker presents 120 Pages and over 200 photos, chronicling the Pittsburgh drag troupe. With pictures of performances, backstage, personal and ever day life moments, Linker gives us a valuable document of the Pittsburg queer scene over the past 4 years.
How did you end up in the queer community?
I guess I’m just drawn to folks similar to me, wanted to be around people with divergent gender identities, radical politics, a desire to create something new, folks with a different perspective, and a desire to live a different perspective. I’m queer, most of my friends are queer, I am attracted to queers… I love the queer community, and the people who are part of it. Sometimes things are hard, but there is so much joy, so much love, and laughter. Creativity and creation. Personally, I identify as queer because I don’t have a firm attachment to any particular gender. The people I am attracted to have a wide variety of divergent genders, and gender presentations.
Why make it the main subject of your photography?
Partially it’s a compulsion. I feel compelled to take pictures and I’m most comfortable taking pictures of the folks I know. Also, I think the queer community is incredibly important. I’ve been taking pictures for a number of years now. When I started, things weren’t getting documented and I didn’t want to see our history lost. I see so many people doing such amazing and creative things, I feel like it’s important to archive them. Also, I love color, and the scene is wonderfully colorful, and attractive.
Are you a part of the Haus of Haunt?
Depends on how you define Haus of Haunt. I don’t perform with the Haus of Haunt, but according to how Sharon and Alaska define Haus of Haunt, I would say I definitely am. They include many people other than just the performers; fans, photographers, folks who give everyone a ride, etc. I’ve been taking pictures of these queens for a number of years now.
Why make a book on the subject matter?
When Sharon got on Drag Race – where they have been showing my book, by the way – I started working on it. When it became obvious that she was an instant hit with the fans, I started working. There was a lot I wanted to share about the Haus of Haunt. One of the things that attracted me to the performances is how they have been able to make so much out of almost nothing. I wanted to show people that they don’t need a lot to create something amazing.
Tell me everything about your upcoming show. What/where/when…
My show at The Warhol Museum opens June 14th. 2013. I’m still not sure how many pictures I’m going to use, probably somewhere around 50ish. The show focuses on the queer community of Pittsburgh. I’m trying to focus on themes that I see running through, things that we all experience, things that make us different and set us apart. And of course things that are part of the human condition that run through all of us. Unlike my Haus of Haunt book, the show at the Warhol is more focused on the day-to-day aspects of the queer community, instead of performance.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Jill Peters
Northern Albanian women, faced with a culture that subjugates females, live and dress as men in order to provide for their families. These sworn virgins took a vow of chastity, wear male clothing and live as men in the patriarchal northern Albanian society. In an ongoing series, photographer Jill Peters has captured the fascination of a tradition dating back hundreds of years.
When and where did you come up with the idea of making this series?
In late 2008 I was reading a book written by Serena Nanda about gender diversity around the world, and came across a chapter about the Sworn Virgins of Albania. I was intrigued by the idea of such a tradition. I knew nothing about them, nor had I ever heard of their existence. The general consensus that they would soon be dying out made me act quickly. I had to meet one and I was determined to photograph at least one. This idea soon expanded to making a documentary film and I put a crew together. We all traveled to Albania in July 2009 and some of these portraits were taken then. I returned again in late 2011 to continue the project.
Was it easy to find these women?
It was not easy to find them. The Sworn Virgins are very proud but extremely private people. The majority live in very small secluded villages not often seen by outsiders. They remain suspicious of foreigners and their trust must be earned over time. Once they accept you however, they are talkative, warm and hospitable, often offering coffee, tea or cigarettes to their guests.
They live as men yet I guess everybody in the village knows they are women – otherwise you would not have found them. Or am I wrong?
The most remarkable aspect of this tradition is that everyone knows they are women. In this culture however, the way one dresses dictates how they are perceived. A woman who cuts her hair short, wears men’s clothes and adopts masculine traits is accepted as a man. Because this practice has a long history and is associated with family honor, inherited wealth and clan survival, the burneshas are well respected and regarded as a benefit to the family. For the most part, villagers in these areas are so accustomed to knowing a Sworn Virgin, or “burnesha”, first hand that they often wonder what all the interest on our part is about.
What do they think of this paradox?
I was drawn to this project because of the paradox of a strident patriarchal society accepting a woman who switches her gender by choice. I want to make it clear if it isn’t already, that this has nothing to do with sexual identity. As westerners we tend to jump at the chance to label someone gay or straight because those seem like the only two options in our culture. The remarkable thing about these women is that they are beyond labels.
I read that this decision is more related to gender roles than to sexuality. Nevertheless they have to remain virgins. Why is that?
I believe swearing to remain a virgin for life and thus avoiding any kind of romantic relationship altogether was their only way of circumventing such labels. Regardless of any orientation, they could not be with a man and still be considered a man. Nor could they be with a woman, as that would technically be a homosexual relationship since they were known to be biologically female. Also, the Kanun, which is the tribal code still influencing many in the rural north, states that a woman is only worth half as many bags of grain as a man, but a virgin is equal to the value of a man. I find it sad in the broader scope, as a woman, that this extreme sacrifice was necessary in order for a woman to exercise her free will. Because a woman wears a pair of pants she is “suddenly” deemed capable of inheriting property, driving a car or running a business. It simply amazes me. I think the injustice in that is evident to everyone today.
Some women became burneshas when they did not want to marry the man their family had chosen for them. Again this is a sad reflection on what it meant to be a woman in those times. Once the vow is taken though, it is forever. To go back on a vow would be to disgrace the family and could result in a deadly feud between the two families that could perpetuate generations of honor killings. I was relieved to discover that for the most part, the burneshas did not regret their decision and insist they have led happy lives. Most would make the same choice given the same circumstances. They are pleased with the progress women have made in the past 50 years and understand why it is a custom that is dying out.
You said in an interview that this is an ongoing project. What are your plans?
My future plans for the project include finishing my documentary film. I’m proud to say I have a good relationship with my subjects and have developed a level of trust over the years.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Paul Buijs
Young, reckless and fresh from the Arnhem art academy. In order to find a suitable subject for his graduation project, Paul Buijs went where no other student would follow; the shady underworld of gay darkrooms and sex parties. Hovering unsettlingly between fiction and reality, documentary style and art photography, Buijs’ work is of an unedited realism. What normally stays in the shades is now brightly lit up in an uncomfortable, confronting way. It reveals a curious and previously unexamined aspect of the gay scene, and provides a window into the collision of the club life, kinky sex and dark cellars that color the streets of Amsterdam.
Paul just returned from his exhibition and lecture at the Berlin Porn Film Festival when we meet. He’s once again flabbergasted by the way people react when confronted with his pictures. “It’s weird to experience that people are still to be shocked since it was never my intention to provoke. When searching for ideas that would suit my graduation project, I was a frequent visitor of the Warmoesstraat and the Regulierdwarsstraat in Amsterdam. The gay areas, so to speak. I started to take pictures and soon my teachers pointed out that I was on to something.”
During that time, Paul got very much intrigued by an article called ‘Life When The party is over’. Written by a psychologist who had made a study on gay men in their mid 30’s – 40’s and published in Wink magazine. He stated that a lot of gay men weren’t able to enjoy their teenage years because of their family for whom they only came out of the closet when they were already in their 20’s. Due to the social impact of such oppression, they started their outgoing life when most straight people in society started to settle.
A phenomenon that in a lot a cases leads to heavy party life and the drug use that often goes along with it. Not to speak of a low career expectation. “This article explained what I questioned: what lies behind the surface of that fashionable, sexual and glamourous appearance. What was behind the mask of the people involved in this scene?”
Still in the stream of perfectioning his art school assignment, his teachers advised him to focus on his signature. Being a huge fan of the Disney and populair culture he swiftly found a symbiosis between the personages that populate his work and the alienation of mainstream entertainment. “All Disney characters are drawn in a certain, monotonic way. They all have the same glance, facial expression and are very similar in style. It stroke me that a lot of my fellow party people wore the same Fred Perry shirt, the same Bikkemberg shoes and had the same hair-do. By asking to wear a mask I wanted to underline the oneness of a certain scene, by making it half a mask, I made a pairing between the monotony of the public statement and their own private personality. “
With the best will in the world you can’t say that Buijs’ work is approachable or reassuring, hence the numerous galleries who rejected his work for being too shocking and the multiple reactions of viewers who found his images to confronting, to surreal, to raw and to bright. “I had no idea my work would have such an impact. I have the upmost respect for my models and I always show them their picture before I make it public because they still can be recognized despite of the mask and I shoot them while we both experience an autobiographical moment of obsession and dependency. The images are viewed like a private journal made public and it works out to be a little too much to handle for a lot of spectators. For example I got fired as a teacher because they thought my work to be too dangerous for the children and their parents. I don’t quite get it, but let me tell you that I’m too passionate and too engaged to just give up. I invariably believe that somewhere, sometime my work will be acknowledged so I keep on going”.