Simon Fujiwara Challenges Homophobia With Monolithic Sculpture Created For Jamaica Biennial

The British artist Simon Fujiwara has created a monolithic sculpture of a male nude to be unveiled in Kingston, Jamaica, in December. The work, titled Brother, 2014, explores issues such as identity, gender and colonialism, has been commissioned by TBA21 Academy, an offshoot of Francesca von Habsburg’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary foundation. The sculpture is based on the artist’s imaginings of a fictional brother of his own invention, born from the real life story of his mother’s first marriage to a British Jamaican bass guitarist in the 1960s. In his quest to understand the cultural and geographic roots of his invented half-brother and to find a physical form for his character, Fujiwara travelled to Jamaica where he became embroiled in the controversies surrounding three key public sculptures in Kingston – each of them celebrating a national historical figure or event and all of them depicting the nude male body. Whilst these controversies play out over the facial features, hair, height and even penis size of these masculine creations, they also reveal wider current political and cultural issues that strike at the heart of the Jamaican national, civic, gender and personal identities.

Fujiwara’s work, featured in museums around the world, weaves his personal experiences into broader historical, social, and political issues through mediums such as sculpture and video, Voorhies added. “Simon’s work is a departure from his biography, growing up with a British mother and a Japanese father and being gay, in that they speak to larger issues such as gender, sexuality, and racism,” he said “That is one way these works connect the arts to our understanding of the world.”

The sculpture will be included as part of the opening ceremony of this year’s Jamaica Biennial (7 December-14 March 2015), and the piece created with students from the local Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Fujiwara asks: “Can a group of people create a [work] that is a summary of problems in society, and of history, but is also, in its frankness, a new proposition?”

The sculpture, carries a message on the delicate subject of homophobia, which highlights the fact that the Caribbean island, has made homosexual acts illegal. “Homosexuality is a very convenient enemy for the large population of disenfranchised Jamaican men who have highly diminished career prospects or power,” says Fujiwara, who took part in a Frieze talk about the appropriation of alternative sexualities.

Simon Fujiwara was the winner of the 2010 Cartier Award. Fujiwara is a British/Japanese artist, who is based in Berlin and Mexico City. His previous works have encompassed performance-style lectures, fictional writings and installations. Fujiwara’s winning proposal was selected from over 500 applications

Fujiwara presented a site-specific work, Frozen; at Frieze London a few years back. It was an installation based on the fictive premise that an ancient lost city has been discovered beneath the site of the fair. Throughout the fair, visitors encountered archaeological digs, displays of found artefacts and graphic panels describing a historic civilization that was once a hub of art and commerce.

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