The Portrait Project
EVALUATION OF THE PORTRAIT PROJECT, VOL. I (COPENHAGEN)
“The portrait project is about migration and mobility.
Between countries, classes and the sexes.”
J. Jackie Baier, August 2009
In 2009 a four months grant by the Danish Arts Council gave me the opportunity to develop a photographic project on location in Copenhagen/DK.
Supported by DIVA (Danish International Visiting Artists Program) and in collaboration with warehouse 9, an independent art & performance space in the old slaughterhouse district, I was enabled to develop and realize
The Portrait Project, Vol. I.
The project emerged from Warehouse9′s involvement with the queer community, the local environment Vesterbro in South Central Copenhagen and the international arts scene.
For several years I have portrayed transsexuals, sex workers and personalities from the queer sexual underground, coming from almost every corner of the planet to work and live in European cities like Berlin, where I live and where we accidentally met.
As a professional transsexual artist I feel related to this environment and the artistic challenge for me is to give images and faces back to the people they belong to. All these people come with faces. I see their beauty and I want to help them to get their right for a visual representation free from the taboos of middle class society and free from sensational journalism and so-called “art photography”.
The DIVA residency program gave us the opportunity to work “on location” in Copenhagen for a period of 4 months from September to December 2009.
In one of our first announcements we declared, we would “use this opportunity to see and portray the invisible faces of sexual migration.”
That is exactly what we did.
We set up a photo studio in the warehouse, where people were invited to come and have their portraits made.
We organized parties with a complete studio set up. The “T Lounge Society” meetings soon became a well-established nightlife event in Copenhagen, noted especially for the “Live Portrait Shootings” that we held during the party. People could come and have their portraits not only photographed here, but also printed and signed and – exhibited.
The deal was – and will always be – that the sitter gets a copy and the wall gets a copy.
The first project description from April 2009 framed the central idea of The Portrait Project as follows:
“Anders als bisherigen Dokumentar-Photographie-Projekten geht es dem Portrait Project nicht in erster Linie darum, den Zugriff auf das photographisch Dokumentierte zu zentralisieren. Zwar werden die „klassischen“ Formen der Publikation auch im Portrait Project benutzt, aber es geht uns eben nicht darum, das Dokumentierte in die herrschenden Diskurse etwa über Migration, Transsexualität, Prostitution „einzubringen“, die Absicht ist vielmehr, einen eigenen Diskurszusammenhang zu begründen, indem die lebendige Auseinandersetzung über das entstandene Portrait oder die entstehenden Bilder dort geführt wird, wo diese Bilder entstehen.
Im Kern trägt das Portrait Project so Aspekte einer nicht zentralistisch gedachten Öffentlichkeit in sich, und es ermöglicht einer in den Massenmedien verzerrt dargestellten gesellschaftlichen Gruppe in Ansätzen eine mediale Selbstrepräsentation.
Mit Strategien der bildenden Kunst wie mit den Mitteln der Performance und der Intervention generiert The Portrait Project einen Diskurs, der die gängige Repräsentation durchbricht und der die üblichen Aktionsfelder von klassischen Community-Publikationen transgressiert.“
(J.Jackie Baier, The Portrait Project, Vol. I: ‚Die Unsichtbaren‘, April 2009 – pdf on demand)
Following that guide line, between September 1, and December 11, 2009 we not only made hundreds of portraits given to the individual sitters which will have their own destiny and stories to tell depending on where they go to.
In December 2009 we also set up an exhibition at the warehouse9 with some of the printed portraits and slide shows that show the exiting & beautiful faces of migration & mobility. (See portfolio Work In Progress/The Portrait Project).
Furthermore, the Live Portrait Shootings initiated activities in and around the warehouse 9 that resulted in the launching of a periodic party event and a group of organizers/public agents:
The “T Lounge Society” will be going on as a monthly event, organized by a newly formed group of people named – the T Lounge Society.
We are planning to continue the Portrait Project in the future. Both the Live Portrait Sessions and the studio work will be proceeded on a regular basis as often as possible.
Furthermore, The Portrait Project will travel to other cities, other countries …