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Frederic Nauczyciel

Frédéric Nauczyciel, Daryll (Illuminati) Chanel (All American), 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Vogue!, Baltimore/Paris 2011-2013
Fire Flies, Baltimore 2011-2012

I would not speak for those who hide themselves to themselves, rather for whom who hide beyond the light of safety, clearness and appearances, those who choose the dark places of silence, quietness, those who glow on will and not on command. The Fire Flies are the Voguers of Baltimore. The name evokes the faint and almost secret, hidden, glowing light that one needs to seek for: a poetical metaphor of the flamboyance of their fast and furious performance when they battle. They burn fast. They change the city they live in by their secret existence. It is very paradoxical. A gray area of understanding that makes the world real.

The first shoot we did in a studio (Vogue! series) aimed to deconstruct the Vogue poses and go back to the origin - to the covers of Vogue Magazine. I invited the Fire Flies into an art space because it is free of any assignation. These first photographs were studies, before I staged their portraits outdoors, in their backyards, or in their neighborhood (the Fire Flies series). Baltimore row houses are very particular to the city. I wanted to show their reality in the city that gave them birth – as Baltimoreans and as Voguers. Voguing is vivid and contemporary, it morphs from influences, hybridizes itself, brings new behaviors in a contemporary urban culture. It is flamboyant, savant, and baroque. I convinced them to show their flamboyance and fierceness in the middle of the city that made them who they are. I wanted to gather all those layers in photographs that would look like academic portraits.

A Baroque Ball, 2015
From the film/performance series House of HMU
video (10’ 18’’)

A conceptual invention uniting contemporary art and Voguing, House of HMU is an artistic community that connects Baltimore and Paris. It is featured in a series of films co-authored and choreographed with the performers.

A Baroque Ball brings together 14 performers in a baroque vogue interpretation of a Bach concerto. It plays with the conventions of Voguing and the rules of the ballroom: the large celebration that begins the ball, the presentation of the ruling legendary performers, the category competitions, and finally the ultimate battle for the grand prize. The work also toys with concepts of the court and the ballroom, political freedom, and the constraint of the French Baroque. In the video, the performance exists in two versions: “savant” or highbrow, in which the performers enact a sophisticated technical response to the invitation to dance; and “shade,” less technically pure but more energetic and dramatic, using the occasion of the dance as an opportunity to scold each other while establishing a complicity with the viewer. In the end, updating the baroque through its hybridization with the contemporary urban idiom of Vogue is what lies at the center of A Baroque Ball.

Frédéric Nauczyciel (adapted and translated from the artist’s statements)


Born 1968 in Paris, Frédéric Nauczyciel lives and works between Paris and the US. Inspired by American postmodern dance and cinema, he works primarily in photography, video, and performance. Through his images, he explores the complexity of social life, be it rural or urban. He employs a nuanced type of portraiture that treats his protagonists in the context of the fabric of their surroundings.

His most recent productions explore the vivid underground culture of voguing within the transgender black communities in Baltimore, MD, and Paris. Nauczyciel was taken by the poetics of survival that he experienced with his protagonists, who invent themselves through performance. Nauczyciel’s work reflects dynamic tensions of sexuality, power, and hybridization.

He has exhibited or performed internationally, including at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne; Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie of d’Arles; Musée de la Chasse, Paris; Palau de la Virreina, Barcelona; Julie Meneret Gallery, NYC; and Honfleur Gallery, Washington D.C. Nauczyciel’s work has been covered by a wide range of international publications, including the New York Times, Le Monde, and Marie Claire.

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