Can you introduce yourself and what you do in one small paragraph?
My name is Stef Van Looveren and I’m a multidisciplinary artist currently living and working in Antwerp. In my practice, I strive to surpass limitations by disrupting normative views; making room for an explorational analysis of bodies free from judgment. Demanding a critical thinking centred around the body, bodily forms and pigmentation, allows me to digest the binary codes of ‘female’ and ‘male’ representations used in art history, advertisement and fashion, which in turn, encouraged me to use my own body as a medium to communicate. By using a variety of mediums, consciously fluid in approach and diverse in appearance, I’m giving form to images that challenge outdated gender/body politics, resulting in a visual language fusing sculptural installations with performance art and video. For the exploration of the body I draw upon a hybrid mixture of diverse elements such as religious iconography, technology, popular culture, BDSM. My main materials of choice are silicone, epoxy, wax and metals among others, representing figures of passage and transformation. The transition and the in-between is central to my work, reflecting processes of human existence that subvert taboos on sex, gender and sexuality.
What originally got you into sculpture?
I started out working mainly in photography and video for which I constructed carefully staged environments, props and objects. Some pieces became autonomous sculptures outside of those installations and are now a significant part of my practice.
What medium do you like to work with?
I’d always like to think in a variety of mediums that go in dialogue all at once or over time.
Can you tell us about your body bag sculptures?
The idea of the sculpture bags originated back in 2017 when I made body casts from a variety of real body parts and genitals from a diverse group of people which I turned into silicone prosthetics for a video installation called ‘O’. I archived these silicone prosthetics in my studio through a metal ring that hung on a clothing rag. They looked like purses and it started a dialogue between gender expression, gender identity and body politics, birthing the idea of the sculpture bags.
Later on, I pursued the potential of adding a functional value, giving the spectator a concrete reason to interact and experience the interchangeability of our sex by being able to wear the sculptures. Simultaneously it made it possible to take the sculptures out of the white cube and onto the street. Representing a spectrum of genitals from ‘female’ sex, ‘intersex’ to ‘male’ sex in different shapes and colors immediately questions the sex and gender binary we live in, and how our bodies get regulated and commodified. The nature of the bags supports the vision that sex should be seen as an interchangeable, wearable accessory, something that the wearer can play around with; challenging us to rethink the meaning of our body while celebrating the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. The wearable sculptures took on different shapes in a variety of materials and introduced piercings and silver hardware, embodying the visual codes and characteristics of a ‘classic handbag’. The bags are made by hand and should be treated as a sculpture. They are either unique pieces or editions and come with a certificate of authenticity.
What are your hopes for your work moving forward?
I’m now working on new sculptures and my second live performance that will premiere in September 2024 at DE SINGEL in Antwerp.