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Shoot the scene and paint the unseen

© 2016 BECKERHARRISON. All Rights Reserved

BeckerHarrison are Carolin Becker, photographer, and Simon Harrison, painter and graffiti artist. They are working together since 2007 on developing their personal symbiosis of photography and graffiti reinterpreting objects and scenes in order to communicate us their own observations and perspectives, ranging from the homeless situation in the UK to education of girls in North Africa or religious conflict in India. In their ‘Luminosity’ series, BeckerHarrison developed more aesthetically focussed work photographing and then abstracting flowers using their paint-on-print process, and it was first exhibited at the AIM Biennale in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2009. In 2010 they received critical acclaim with their first solo exhibition, 'What A Difference A Day Makes', at The Outsiders, a project space by the well-known Lazarides Gallery in London. Now they present two of their projects at the galerie hiltawsky which represents their first exhibition in Berlin. The first one is Holy Shit, a series of black & white photographs by Carolin Becker made during Easter and Passover celebrations in Jerusalem and used by Simon Harrison like canvas to integrate signs of a seemingly omnipresent military presence. The second one is The Naked Truth, an unconventional re-staging of Leonardo da Vinci’s work ‘The Last Supper’ for which they casted Thai ‘ladyboy’ prostitutes in the roles of Jesus of Nazareth and his apostles.

Is society ready to accept naked truths?

Harrison: I don’t think people are actually capable of accepting the truth. Most people wouldn’t even recognise it. We have so many preconceptions and expectations that truth will pass us by or simply be ignored. There’s no room for truth in human society. People just believe what comforts them.

Becker: People watch atrocities  and injustice on the news every day and then go about their daily business, completely ignoring what they have seen. People don't know what to do with the truth.

Which one is the truth behind The Naked Truth project?

Becker: An important truth for me, is that I'm now empowered as a woman to reverse the conventional role of artist and subject. The truth is artists have used female prostitutes since forever and I thought it was important as a woman, to produce art in a similar way to the old masters, using prostitutes as models but reversing the dynamic. whenever the old masters used female models they would have exclusively used prostitutes. I contradicted this using modern media and male prostitutes instead. Statistics provided by the feminist group "guerrilla artists" shows that, in the metropolitan museum of art, only four percent of the creators are female but ninety eight percent of the nude painted subjects were naked women. This is an imbalance that obviously needs to be addressed.

Harrison: Ultimately, we think that the truth has no boundaries. There is no rule for one ethnic or social group or sex and a different rule for another. All people are equal. If people are going to latch on to this peculiar idea of God, then it strikes us as ridiculous that they insist on assuming god has the same petty minded attributes as they themselves have. Carolin wanted to use Ladyboys for exactly this reason. It is stupid to assume that the creator of the universo is sexist or homophobic.

Why do you choose classic art and religion as a basis for your perspective on the role of prostitution in society?

BeckerHarrison: We chose classic art and religion as a basis for our ideas because the Catholic church chose prostitution as a means of proliferating their religious message through art. There aren’t any “reputable women” in religious iconographic art from the periods we chose. It would have been unthinkable for a woman to pose nude. Not accepted by society. The artists were forced to use prostitutes for this reason. Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, more accepted in some places than in others. If you believe the bible, even Jesus' best friend was a hooker.

What’s your opinion about prostitution and our relation with sex in western culture?

BeckerHarrison: We have no problems with prostitution. We do have problems with societies that force people to make such choices because they have no other options. A young man or woman should not have to have sex with a stranger to stop themselves from starving. It’s repulsive. If they want to do it because they enjoy it, that’s a different matter. Good luck to them. Personally we think sex is over emphasised pretty much everywhere. have no patience with  prudishness or puritanical views concerning sex. A person’s activities are their business as long as they harm no one else. Sex and the church is full of hypocrisy.

You also present the series Holy shit and religion has again a main role. What’s your personal relation with religion?

Becker: There is no place for women in established religion. We are either whores or mothers. Witches or virgins. I can't support religion if it hates me.

Harrison: I’m not even sure what religion is. I certainly don’t condone the monstrous nonsense that has been foisted on the world for centuries in its name. Religion should be private. It’s the height of ignorance to harm someone else inany way if they don’t share the same view as you. It’s ironic that a fundamentalist feels the need to kill me because I don’t believe in his absolute god. All it shows is his own insecurity and lack of conviction in his own belief. Surely, absolutism needs no defence.

The obvious difference between The Naked Truth and Holy Shit is the choice of color and vivid images in the first and a raw black and white in the second. Why this different approach?

Harrison: Personally I found Jerusalem very bleak and very polarised politically. Black and white are extremes of a spectrum. Like their political problem.

Becker: If I could I would have shot it black and black. I felt the historical significance and obvious aesthetic of the city was almost completely overpowered by the politics.  I shot the images as I felt. There was no joy there. There was no communication. It seemed to lack humanity and understanding. I was definitely not chasing a happy ending. The world is not a fairy tale.

Carolin Becker, photographer and Simon Harrison, painter. How is the creative process in your collaboration projects?

Harrison: Our process is symbiotic. Carolin will take the photos with me in mind. This allows for the addition of my content later. It is a delicate balance to try and add to her images without spoiling them. The main rule is, if there is no synergy there will be no image. The final piece has to be greater than the sum of its parts. Carolin will have an idea and we will discuss it. Then we travel wherever we need to go to get the shot. My input at this end is minimal. I just make sure that if we are somewhere dangerous that she doesn’t get killed while she takes photos. When we are back in the studio it’s my turn to release the final part of the image, adding the essence of the place we visited. In effect, Carolin shoots the scene, I paint the unseen.

Apart of religion, which other masked weapons are the most dangerous in the current days?

BeckerHarrison: Politics though to be honest, politics and religion amount to the same thing as far as we're concerned. Religious faith is in many ways just a form of discrimination. The same can be said for politics, race and gender. Sadly, these things separate rather than unite us. Then of course there is consumerism and communication.It's ironic that with all these new communication devices at our fingertips there is still such a lack of communication and understanding.

Is it all rubbish?

Harrison: Considering the fact that our life styles generate so much waste, I would say it is.

Becker: Some people sing some write to communicate. We communicate through art. There are probably people who think that what we do is rubbish but we do what we feel is important to us. It's up to the individual. Art is our voice and we use it.

Could you explain me a dream you had while sleeping?

Harrison: I dreamed I was deep in the ocean peering into the blue darkness. It became obvious that the distance I was seeing was infinite. The feeling of infinity surrounded me, grew until I thought I would die from the weight of it.Then I woke up.

Becker. : I'm  an insomniac.

Exhibition Holy Shit 

January 29th – March 12th 2016 galerie hiltawsky

A selection here

Exhibition The Naked Truth
January 30th – February 28th 2016 galerie hiltawsky POP-UP SPACE

A selection here

Galerie hiltawsky
Tucholskystraße 41, 10117 Berlin

An interview by Juan Carlos Romero
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BeckerHarrison website
Photo by © 2016 BECKERHARRISON
All Rights Reserved