About two-years ago, I started to knit customized balaclavas (The French word meaning “cagoule”) as a white CIS faggot, which suggests a camp and whimsical form of activism, which is intended to make auddiences think about the art of anonymity. Also, at the beginning of my art production, I started to knit on the metro, a train, or at political demonstrations in the street. I use to knit with my crochet little pinkish flowers. I liked the fact that they could mean something very simple: “flower power”, but they could also be read as being sexual. I used to say, “je vous donne ma petite fleur”—which means, literally, “I am giving you my little flower”, but which connotes that I am giving you the gift of virginity. Paradoxically my art practice gave rise to some homophobic experiences, but also some of the most purest moments of generosity. Later, I wanted to do something else with my love of knitting and crochet crafts.
I was thinking about how the technologies are used nowadays to control the population and to centralise personal information. The facial recognition came out, in part, due to social networks—a new tool of massive surveillance began. Thus, it sometimes became a necessity to hide our face—to refuse and resist recognition, visibility. This new system of control created the emergence of activist movements like Anonymous, which I think is a rather queer political and aesthetic project.
But in further thinking about Anonymous, I asked to myself: Why should we all wear the same mask to protect our life from facial recognition (governmental surveillance)? And, why is it the face of a white man—specifically Guy Fawkes? Are there other masks to be worn? Also, I asked, how could we fight in a collective way, in which we still preformed our identity without being recognised? Within these questions is the broader and philosophical question of the individual and/in the collective, the one and the many, and tied to us all is the fight against specific, personal, as well as more broad, fights, and aesthetic strategies against oppression.
Finally, I would like to state that I draw inspiration from Leigh Bowery, James Merry, Bjork, Sia, Anonymous, Pussy Riot—as well as all kinds of tribal and pagan rituals—so, masks in all kind or arts, globally. And, in the future, I would like to use my balaclavas in collective and public ways. Indeed, this is a work in progress.
– Guillaume Deschamps / 2016
To learn more about Deschamp’s art and activism please visit his gallery on tumblr.
These images were contributed to Balaclava.Q by the artist.
Please ask the artist before using them.