In the age of social media and global marketing, a Swedish-British artist challenges the norms and boundaries enacted by 21st-century society and its predominant attributes. Indeed, through their multidisciplinary visual art, AdeY challenges the censoring enacted by social media platforms and the sexualization of bodies carried out by established marketing strategies, “I hate censoring my images, as by blurring something that does not need to be hidden makes the image look sexualised or pornographic”.
Theirs is a critically provoking and politically engaged exhibition to experience, something that is now offered, until November 12th, by Fotografiska Stockholm, which is hosting the artist’s latest solo show, Uncensored. AdeY is a multidisciplinary artist who chose to keep his personal life and identity mostly private. The Swedish-British artist has a dance background, having worked professionally as a contemporary dancer for many years, and has always been passionate about photography. His recent and new works of art encompass both forms of artistic expression through choreographed photography.
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Gateway © AdeY
First of all, congratulations on your solo show at Fotografiska Stockholm! This is another major achievement in your artistic career. What does it mean to you professionally and personally?
Both professionally and personally it means a lot to me. As an artist based in Sweden it feels gratifying to have the acknowledgement from an institution so close to home. On a personal level it was the first photography museum I ever visited and from that day I dreamed of having an exhibition at Fotografiska.
The undisputed subjects of this exhibition, Uncensored, are bodies. Several people of different sex and gender, ethnicity, and body shape took part in your project. What was the process behind involving these different models? And how did you approach portraying them naked?
The vast majority of the models in my images are friends who work professionally with their bodies. I just asked people nicely and most of them said they would be happy to be part of the project. With approaching nudity I’m always upfront and go through my ideas before we get started to make sure everyone is comfortable.
Admiring your pieces and knowing that you used to be a professional dancer, one could infer that your previous artistic career informed this new photographic chapter. Indeed, it seems like instead of giving up dancing and picking up photography, you incorporate the previous discipline into the latter, different form of artistic expression. While choreography is surely dominant in your photographic portfolio, what led you to initiate an artistic journey with photography?
My dance background has absolutely informed my photographic works. It feels more like a continuation with using a different medium to express body language. Photography had always been a passion of mine documenting friends in dance performances and it was a very natural transition to choreograph for images and build the world I could see in my head.
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Laundry Time © AdeY
Your artistic past is one of the few details about your personal and professional life you chose to share with the world. Could you shed some light on your anonymity? Considering your ethical interests, could this choice be related to your understanding of debated moral concepts like the one of authorship? Or is it due to a need to balance your artistic fame and your personal privacy?
My choice to be somewhat anonymous was to give space to my artistic work and not let the images become all about me. When I started sharing my work on social media I thought many people were more interested in who the artist was than the art itself. Hopefully the images speak for themselves and I don't need to share what I had for breakfast to make it interesting!
As we discussed, the protagonists of your photography are still and moving naked bodies in choreographed poses and movements. What was the process behind reaching a representation of nudity that avoids mainstream sexualisation? Why is this important to you as an artist?
Having worked professionally as a contemporary dancer for a number of years I felt the body was not well represented in the mainstream. The status quo is sex sells and nudity equals sex and the I wanted to show how the nude body does not always need to be sexualised - like how commercials use models to sell products. My work sets out to give an alternate voice and reclaim the body from the corporate establishment.
Another crucial issue related to naked bodies in the 21st century is their space on social media. Indeed, these platforms could be a challenging place to share your art considering how such subjects are usually, at least partially, censored. Do you think you can avoid or face this challenge, or do you find censuring platforms like Instagram restricting your ability to reach a wider audience?
In some ways I think artists censoring our works for social media platforms actually add to the problem yet without artists on these applications challenging these archaic attitudes the situation would most likely be worse. I hate censoring my images, as by blurring something that's does not need to be hidden makes the image look sexualised or pornographic. I’ve been removed and reinstated on Instagram nine times and I am in a constant state of being shadow banned (Instagram hides your posts) - so this definitely restricts my ability to reach even the people who choose to follow me.
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Clamber © AdeY
The naked body, as natural and ubiquitous as it is in our daily lives and art histories, is still a controversial topic, as the evergreen social media censure demonstrates. With your photos, what reactions do you wish to enact in your viewers and what message do you hope to convey to the public?
I hope my works gives people the chance to view the body in a humorous and light-hearted way without feeling like it is something naughty or taboo.
You have also published several photobooks. Would you say that these, the latest one being Uncensored, enable you to move beyond social media’s limits and rules? Why is paper so important?
Seeing photography on paper is a very different experience than scrolling on your phone. A book cements the project and allows the reader to follow the story you carefully curate page by page. I see different messages in images when I look at them in print and spend longer with each image. Books slow you down and social media makes everything flash by in a split second.
One of your photobooks, Boys! Boys! Boys!, features works by established and emerging queer and gay photographers. What is the significance of a similar inclusive publication for both your personal and professional life?
Boys! Boys! Boys! is a publication by editor Ghislain Pascal of The Little Black Gallery–who also happens to represent my work. Being part of his project helps connect my images to other artists working on similar themes. A really wonderful network has blossomed and many of the artists have now become friends from all over the world.
Are there any other projects you have in mind for the future or any exhibitions you are currently working on that you can share with us?
Right now I’m shooting my new series that is focused on the freedom of movement reconnecting to my dance background. I’m learning to rediscover my love of movement and adapting my photographic style to accommodate my new vision. To launch with this series I will rework a dance I choreographed in 2019 to be shown alongside the images at exhibitions. I hope to premiere the work in mid 2024.
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Domestic Bliss © AdeY
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She Man Part II © AdeY
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Yin-Yang © AdeY
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Astrid II © AdeY
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You to Me © AdeY
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Layer © AdeY