Tim Best is an artist currently based in Dallas. His work, in film and photography, shown across the U.S. and in Berlin, subverts the male gaze, looking what happens when a male photographer is turned into a sexual object. Here, Tim shares photographs and film stills from his Poser Project and discusses hitting a nerve with men trying to play themselves.
The inversion of porn to something closer to cinema is important to me because it is the idea that something understood as depraved like porn can become something normal like cinema. The inversion of porn to cinema is pretty extreme, but extreme is good.The more you can short-circuit the norm, the larger the change. The change I seek is to make fluid sexual and gender identification more accepted by the wider public. There are lots of others stepping out on social media making this happen. I am excited to be part if it.
DG: Dandyism was a common language of social status for men, until the 19thC. Today, many guys, queer or straight, feel shy about donning costume. How do we discover more about who we are by ‘dressing-up’?
Dressing-up can be used to step out of our familiar selves. I believe that by performing something we do not understand completely, i.e. our future selves, we gradually become our future selves based on our actions.
In the case of my practice, I interrupt the image of a white male with make-up, BDSM costume, and other things to make my appearance incongruent with the social expectations of myself. I call this my mask.Using the characteristics of photography, notably repetition, the representation of myself becomes more familiar with every picture. I think we discover ourselves by becoming what we perform. We just need to look in the mirror (actual and metaphorical) to see who we are.
DG: In which of these pictures do you feel most like a man and in which do you feel most like yourself? Are these feelings ever in conflict?
I feel most masculine when I take a position about my identity by changing my appearance. It’s important for me to distinguish between being a “man” and “masculine”.The latter is a bundle of characteristics that make up part of what society defines as a man. The other part being biological sex. Combine those two logically and you have the social definition of a man. I have found that I can take apart these bundles of visual characteristics and make my own appearance that says what I want it to say. That is, an appearance that represents what I desire sexually and for my well-being.
I am still finding what works with each successive photo shoot. There is no conflict with me. I am an artist, and even if I were a painter or a sculpture I would do this with different media. The conflict arises with others, when I jar their expectations of me so far out of line that they feel the need to write a long email or call me late at night to express their concerns. That means I am striking a nerve which is exactly what I need to do to.