Gender / Images / Masculinity / Men

Jody Bieber’s Quiet Portrays Men in South Africa in their Underwear


At the least it seems to me that what takes place in the intimate spaces of the home, while often neglected in studies of society, is as consequential as that which occurs in the public, in the more overtly political, history-making spaces of political rallies, parliament, companies, courts, stadiums.

What we do when are alone or with our close others, including playing with the dog, drinking tea with the boyfriend, arguing, masturbating, thinking in the loo, taking a shower, going over the cashier’s remark, or chasing your child around the house is also important isn’t it?

These were some of my remarks at a very well attended dialogue at Jody Bieber’s show Quiet on at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. Quiet is a series of portraits of men in South Africa in their underwear. According to the show’s handouts,

“The show…addresses the performance of masculinity through a candid and intimate exploration of the fluidity of male identity. At the core of this project is a confrontation of traditional representations of men, that valorise toughness, among other attributes, and lock men into gender identities that are complicit with violence.”

The Goodman was the exhibition space in 2012 for the painting The Spear by Brett Murray. Depicting South African President Jacob Zuma and African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed the painting achieved what might in hindsight be desirable notoriety. Eventually vandalised by two men, one black and the other white, strangers to each other, the painting became the centre of an incredible political and cultural skirmishes in the country, with the ANC lodging a defamation lawsuit and threating a boycott against City Press newspaper for publishing an image of the painting.



The Goodman is therefore the best space for hosting a show showing men’s bodies and being vulnerable. These images are also meant to counter dominant representations of men as only muscular, sex machines, violent and other stereotypical constructions of men. In the show’s handout material, Bieber is quotes saying “it is of interest to men, and to society in general, that the normality of violent masculinity be challenged in order to create space for men to see themselves in other ways.”

The show is running till April 26 2014. It might be worth your time to see it. The worth of the project, besides addressing the topics of important to us here at NAM, is that I’m trying to get comfortable with myself as this beautiful object of the gaze.


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