Highlights from Athens: Lionel Wendt

Documenta14, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss a titillating photo series by Lionel Wendt.

    Ok, this guy Lionel Wendt, also in the anthropological corner. He was some renaissance man. Born in Sri Lanka by Dutch  parents, he was playing the piano, studied law in England, hosted salons, was a painter, author, photographer… From what  I learned he formed the “’43 group”, the avant-garde of Sri Lanka, who fused Western modernism with local traditions.

    So he’s a native, but not so native?

    Bourgeois at least. But who isn’t? Also, documenta14 keep teaching us about artists from the peripheries of the art world, like the Sami Mazi-group, but only those who are influenced by modernism? Opsie!

    Either way, the photos are beautiful, maybe except that one picture of the “exotic mask”. I like the titillating look of the models, and  how this white fabric is gushing forward. The model seems so much in his own mind, doing his thing. And also very conscious of how good he looks and that someone is taking his photo.

    Yeah, he’s very clean and elegant. It made me think of Pink Narcissus (1971), this gay film by James Bidgood, where another beautiful boy is doing innocent, and not so innocent poses.

    There’s another photo of someone crashing a whip, all his muscles are flexing and shiny, and it’s such a really nice picture, he is capturing something genuine. But my problem with this kind of anthropological photography is that it’s like the last thing you see before everything gets ruined. You tell everyone how nice a place is and then everyone comes and ruins it.

    James Bidgood, Pink Narcissus, 1971, videostill