Five Minutes After Birth

curated by Carlo Sala

La mostra vincitrice della prima Open Call internazionale promossa dal Festival è Five Minutes After Birth dell’artista inglese William Lakin, un progetto che risponde al condizionamento dell’esperienza maschile nelle moderne società occidentali. Facendo riferimento a comportamenti anti-sociali, sessualità e ruoli tradizionali di genere, questo lavoro offre una risposta, sia critica che riflessiva, alla ricerca di potere e controllo degli uomini, e alla loro inclinazione a esercitare comportamenti competitivi e spesso dannosi.

The works centre around ideas of tension, anxiety, balance and suffering; a psychological hellscape in which social hegemonies can, for some, represent a living embodiment of hell. Even for those who adhere to dominant normative identities, a careful regime of self-surveillance is required to protect oneself from ridicule. The process of becoming a man and adhering to social hegemony could be described as a practice of trial and error; a perpetual cycle of aspirational endeavours and inevitable failures. Presenting masculinity as a performance and a culturally reproduced identity, this work highlights the fragility of this cycle and the difficulty men have in describing and accounting for this shared identity.

Amongst the images I have included interviews with millennial men asking them to explain what it means to be a man. I ask them not to use linguistic shortcuts such as the words, ‘masculine’, ‘feminine’, ‘man’, ‘woman’, etc. in order to provoke a more descriptive response but also to highlight our reliance on such terms. The redactions in the texts are where my interviewees have accidentally used one of these words.

Far from being a celebration of the plurality of masculinities, these works are a meditation on dated but prevalent masculine archetypes and the disruption and questioning they are increasingly subject to. Whilst for some this social arrangement represents a personal inferno, for others it represents stability and comfort; a way of being which is uncomplicated and reliably static. Using masculinity as an identity to deconstruct, this work poses broader questions about social hierarchies, shared narratives and increasingly polarised discourses around such subjects.


I am a photographer based in London currently working on research-based, self-led projects as well as teaching on the BA Photography course at Middlesex University. In 2017 I completed my MA degree and in September 2021 I will begin a practice-based PhD at London College of Communication on the subject of political polarisation and online disinformation. In addition to my art practice and teaching, I run an online platform for contemporary photography called 46 Space (XLVI) which publishes virtual exhibitions, interviews and open calls.

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