Léonard Bougault – Back in the countryside

During the resi­den­cy at Vil­la Vil­le­kul­la (05/23–07/23), I faced again life in the countryside. 

I grew up in a rural space. As soon as I could lea­ve, I moved to the city and then abroad. Retur­ning to this con­text was a way to embrace inse­cu­ri­ty, as it ali­gned with the the­me of the resi­den­cy : how to stay insecure ?.

I remain­ed inse­cu­re about the con­text and the shift to pri­ma­ri­ly an artis­tic prac­ti­ce for three months, a situa­ti­on I only expe­ri­en­ced during COVID and never befo­re as an architect. 

From this ter­ri­to­ri­al and social displacement—in a que­er atmo­sphe­re crea­ted by the won­derful peo­p­le I had the chan­ce to live with (Aru­na, Char­lot­te, Fred, Madeleine)—

I deci­ded, through an incom­ple­te series of pain­tings, to work on what Lacan calls «hon­to­lo­gie» mea­ning to turn shame into a power to act. 

As a fag­got, back in the coun­try­si­de, I attempt­ed to crea­te a dia­lo­gue bet­ween tho­se who stay­ed and tho­se who left. I cho­se to repre­sent objects of com­mon desi­re bet­ween rural hete­ro­se­xu­als and urban gays (sports and mecha­nic gear, bull skin, pliers etc.). 

The­se objects repre­sent the shame of the social envi­ron­ment I come from and the shame of being homo­se­xu­al. «Shame as a social struc­tu­re of infe­rio­rizati­on», as Eri­bon says.

With this series «Malai­se – Male Gaze – Mer­guez», I ask mys­elf : Has the typi­cal image of rural hete­ro­se­xua­li­ty beco­me a que­er phan­tasm? Does the aes­the­tic of hete­ro­se­xu­al and domi­nant bodies con­ce­al a com­mon fetish or illu­stra­te an uncon­scious closet?

I addres­sed my own desi­res and repre­sen­ted them wit­hout focu­sing on the que­sti­on of bodies, which are com­mon­ly at the cent­re of gay repre­sen­ta­ti­on. By avo­i­ding the que­sti­on of the body, I don’t prio­ri­ti­ze nor­ma­li­zed bodies and bring the view­er clo­ser to the pain­ting, allo­wing them to inter­pret it as they wish. I made one excep­ti­on (Untit­led 1) to stand by my belon­ging to the gay community.

All the pain­tings ori­gi­na­te from images stored on my phone—pictures I took or sto­le from Insta­gram and the who­le wide web. The­se are the cho­sen ones, sel­ec­ted from the digi­tal mass to exist in the real world through my per­spec­ti­ve and the imper­fec­tion of human hands. I trans­port them from the digi­tal realm to rea­li­ty, rein­for­cing the fetis­hizati­on of the objects.