After the official opening of BredaPhoto 2020 last Wednesday 9 September, a negative interpretation of the work of Erik Kessels ‘Destroy my Face’ has emerged online. The work is shown in Skatepark PIER15. Put under pressure by reactions on social media and its sponsors, PIER15 felt compelled to remove the artwork. BredaPhoto has taken notice of the decision and regrets it, but understands the position PIER 15 is in.
BredaPhoto aims to be a platform offering room for dialogues about current social issues through visual storytelling. BredaPhoto therefore regrets that the debate about ‘Destroy my Face’ cannot be conducted in an open and nuanced way and that, under pressure from protests via social media, one of its partners future existence is threatened, which means that they were forced to decide to remove the work.
“What was intended as a work of art to enter into a dialogue about the feasibility of our current visual culture, turned out to evoke different associations. This was never our intention. The work by Erik Kessels is interpreted differently than the dialogue the work wanted to initiate. We have heard and understood the criticism and we take our responsibility” said PIER15.
“We understand people don’t like or even disagree with the form and /or content of this work. This is open for discussion. The choice of BredaPhoto to show this project in a skatepark is a conscious one. It’s confrontational and abbrevise. It provokes a vital discussion about the boundaries and spheres of influence of cosmetic surgery, especially with the youth and with the new normal of “InstaPerfect”. In contrast, the current polarization of the debate and the cancel culture is not what BredaPhoto stands for. We have invited the initiators of the online petition against the work to join our Artist Talk Show and join the discussion together with the artist. Unfortunately, they declined the invitation because they explicitly wanted to remain anonymous” says Fleur van Muiswinkel, director of BredaPhoto.
“The representation of oneself and what is real seems to blur more and more. The same can be said for how we present the image of ourselves online. Being insta-perfect can become the norm instead of the exception (..). The deformation that once started with cosmetic surgery will continue in this installation while skaters create another uncontrolled reality” states Kessels about his work.
During BredaPhoto 2020, the overall theme ‘the best of times, the worst of times’ presents various current social themes including climate change, Black Lives Matter, peer pressure via social media and thus the limits to the malleability of society and man.
About ‘Destroy my Face’
With “Destroy my Face” Kessels wants to stimulate the discussion about the limits of the malleability of the human face and body. He poses questions about the fact that more and more people – young and also the elderly – are changing their external identity. This often happens under disguised social pressure, which is also spread via social media.
The work ‘Destroy My Face’ consists of a compilation of 60 images. The images are sized 4m x 4m and were pasted on the floor of Skatepark PIER15. The images shown are constructions made up of a collection of over 800 images found on the internet of women and men who have in one way or another transformed their face through cosmetic surgery or filters. The images are a reference to reality, but the 60 images presented are not portraits of existing people. They are transformations. During the period of BredaPhoto, skateboarders in turn would skate over these “avatars” and thus transform this constructed reality and give the images the patina of the time.