BEAUTY / Snow White

Arthur Gillet shot by Jeronimo Hernandez Almeyda in Paris, France

There is a fine but distinct line in genre for most art & media. Do your interests blur the lines in your work or are you consciously trying to erase them?

Before modeling, I was already working and writing a lot on the subject of identity construction. During my fine arts school studies I enjoyed helping my classmates in their projects. I ended being in the pictures of most of the students.

I always hated to see myself in video or pictures so it was a kind of exercise. I realized this accumulation was representing something that wasn’t me, like an avatar in a video-game. I associated that with an ability to be open to transformations, and a feeling of freedom. I know it can sound like narcissism, but paradoxically, this accumulation made me less and less concerned about a precise shape I had to make appear for others to fit their expectations.

I suffered a lot since I was an ugly lonely bullied gay kid with gender issues in a small town. Of course this gay erotism I’m playing with is a part of my sexual life and my fantasies, as well as the classical references are a part of my culture and my own tastes, as well as the most queer pictures reflects my sensibility and my own history. Sometimes I do pictures for the sake of feeling pretty, and sometimes because I find it funny. But in the end the accumulation of an absurd multiplicity of identities that can take place in only one body really excites me. 

There is a common idea that identity is exclusively ours, but it’s unsatisfying to me and it brings a lot of disappointment. You can’t simply deny the perception and representations of other people. I see a lot of people attracted by the idea of being queer but letting themselves entitling with a rigid identity. I think they overestimate their political statements, and despise about the aesthetic part of the work. Aesthetic doesn’t mean it has to be pretty, it means you need to play with colours, shapes and movements to suggest to other and yourselves subjective representations, such as looking manly, feminine and other. To me it works as any art project. That’s why I think it was interesting to go into media, where my intentions would remain unclear under the profusion of pictures it gives and the way it is spread.

People had no clue of my intentions and they had to receive pictures as they wanted, and react to it, sometimes with passion, sometimes with violence, but the global experience of it is interesting and taught me a lot about how identity can work. Also I know strong aesthetic and interesting experiences can be made anywhere, it’s not the monopoly of museums or universities, also I received a lot of strong teachings and feeling from medias or pop stuff. I think it’s good to subvert the lines, but it is also good to respect them at the same time.

All creation can’t be commercially useful while it is artistically relevant. I think any discipline has its own advantages and inconveniences, what is important to me is the ease to make things that fits any of them. Questioning those disciplines to improve them or make them more porous, if you are careful, doesn’t mean you want to destroy them.

We’ve become such an picture based society where we perceive things about people we’ll never meet in person. Does this irony and illusion interest you? 

I don’t know if you are talking about social media, but I think this statement works for any relation since psychology and sociology has been so vulgarized that scientific jargon is commonly used in conversations.

Also, everything in our societies became spectacular. We are so convinced to know people we don’t know through abstract categories or designed characters that we actually never get the chance to meet them. To avoid that, I feel there is two strategies to blur the lines, you can just hide, or you can show too much and make it impossible to read.

I just like to cumulate pictures of myself contradicting each other to the point where it’s impossible to understand what’s going on. I hope it pushes people to experience a relation with someone instead of an image. Paradoxically maybe, each picture I made or was involved into taught something about myself.

Where are you most comfortable on the spectrum between masculine and feminine?

When I was a child I remember I had strange conceptions, thinking perfection would be the head of a woman on the body of a man. Then I was highly attracted by androgyny, and angels in the churches I was going into. I always tried to put myself apart of the competition, relationships of power, and also (maybe so) sexuality.

Puberty gave me such strong desires I was kind of lost. I’m as much strongly attracted by strong and erotic Hercules in classical art as much as the elegant, kind, smart and wit female characters of the english literature. But I can say the same with the characters of building workers in TV adds and magical girls from Japanese anime. So it was a bit difficult to find a shape that society would have designed for me. So I decided to create it new everyday.

I suppose my strongest models today would be animals. If you have enough tenderness when you observe them, you find in them innocence and fierceness at the same time, goodwill and territory instinct, elegance and brute behavior, everything that we need, whatever is their gender. 

When were you first aware of your body & that it could be a powerful tool?

I don’t know if my body is a powerful tool. Surely desire is. Mine as much as the others’. Desire is such a beautiful thing, it gives energy to anything, as opposite as the pleasure. Pleasure is only good to maintain desire, and not becoming bitter.

How much do you know about your DNA level heritage? To whom do you owe that porcelain skin and extraordinary beard?

Unless my mother lied to me, I’m just a french boy mixing two rustic parts of France, western Brittany and a lost part of the less inhabited part of France: Creuse. But every time people think I’m from a different country. I heard I could be Spanish, Moroccan, Italian, English, Greek, Israeli. Most Jews think I’m Muslim, while most of Muslims think I’m Jewish. At least the only thing everyone can agree on is the fact I’m gay. 

I just love to keep my skin as white as possible because in classical occidental culture skin tanning was showing you were a tough worker. That’s why in paintings men are usually more tanned than women. The only time where men has paler skin is when they are martyrs, such as Saint Sebastian, always surrounded by tanned persecutors. To me it’s a discreet homosexual allusion, since most of the martyrs in these type of scenes are often beautiful, showing a weird suggestive posture. It’s not by accident if Saint Sebastian became the patron saint of the gays.

As an artist does it ever feel awkward to be a muse / subject for another artist?

To me absolutely not. Actually I enjoy collaborating a lot. I consider aesthetics and poetry as a constant flux of ideas and images for those who create or appreciate them. They need to be constantly fluid to allow possibilities and all the transformations our minds can play with. But for a lot of people around this energy, for those whose legitimacy is based on conceptual knowledge, social position or political posture, art can fall into an illustration of their conceptions. For the ones who try to make art useful for capitalism as anything should be nowadays, there is no room for waste, experimentation, and mental weaknesses. Art should be a commercial good as any other, with high speculation opportunities and less taxes. 

As artists, we first must fit the categories and clear intentions, to the point that we have to walk holding a sign. But to others, we are nothing but a brand, so we have to fit the stereotype of what the market wants, even if it looks transgressive. Black Mirror shows perfectly how capitalism can include what seems to be against it in the second episode of the first season for example.

You’re in a film coming out this year. Will there be more acting in your future?

I already collaborated in the video works of Louis-Phillipe Scoufaras as a performer, which was ambitious, and which I’m really proud of. My experience with Manuel Marmier was really different since it was a more cinematic project involving acting. It was such a great experience. Manuel and his team were amazing. I hope there will be many other occasions!