14 Apr 2021
Spotlight on: Peter Spanjer, ‘Water Blood-n-Bones'
We explore the video art of artist Peter Spanjer, focusing on his 2019 piece ‘Water Blood-n-Bones’.
We are thrilled to delve into the 2019 video piece ‘Water Blood-n-Bones’ by London-based, Nigerian born artist Peter Spanjer. As an artist, he often frames his practice around ideas of resistance and emotional stereotypes placed on black men. He explores the resistance to perform blackness to others, allowing space for self exploration in his visual art. His film work perfectly depicts elements of softness and vulnerability, tracing back to personal battles of breaking away from strict gender roles within a black household.
‘Water Blood-n-Bones’ is Spanjer’s first video piece where he portrays his own body, crucially this became an emblem of freedom for him, and a way in which his practice could progress. Within his process, he creates his film work from a pure and self-derived place, simultaneously forming these ideas devoid of any research.
The visual narratives he forms in this video derive from personal experience. Spanjer’s title for the video piece reflects a direct link to the human form and the elements we are all made up of. Through this, he explores how the human exterior is built from cultural and social background.
In comparison to Spanjer’s later video work, ‘Water Blood-n-Bones’ is a particularly intimate exploration. He predominantly challenges notions of performative masculinity. In short, he shows a vulnerability and honest presentation of ‘self’ in his personal approach. For this particular video, Spanjer aims to resist the need for it to be seen. Subsequently he intends the performance to exist without the presence of viewers. Spanjer came to a breakthrough moment in his artistic practice, in turn he felt the film became a representation of himself in many ways.
‘Water Blood-n-Bones’ began as a poem he wrote, partly explorative but mostly inquisitive to the action of asking questions. The foundations to the video piece are based in articulated feelings and thoughts at the time it was created. For Spanjer, the process is integral to the piece whilst also ensuring an honesty with his personal and emotive ties to the work.
“One of the biggest questions started with ‘Water Blood-n-Bones’ – the question of ‘who are you?’” Peter Spanjer
The London-based, Nigerian artist most often creates work based on ideas of resistance of emotional stereotypes placed on black men. As well as this, he focuses on the resisting of performing blackness to others, importantly allowing room for self exploration. Most often, this extends to his audience in the form of video and print work. Equally important, Spanjer’s practice primarily contains layers of sensuality and sexuality whilst also addressing fragility and softness. This can be traced to his personal battles with breaking away from strict gender roles within a black household.
Within his body of work, crucially Spanjer aims to confront his own sensitivities through research on self-evaluation and engrained cultural narratives. Spanjer’s work challenges an internalised belief system. In particular he tries to pull apart ‘ideas of blackness’ within the contemporary art world. Spanjer focuses on the journey of collecting the imagery as a process in itself. In the making of these prints, in particular he conjures themes of conflict. Mostly, this stems from unanswered and unresolved questions. In the same way, he addresses ‘intention’ in his work. Most often, he makes decisions of whether the work will end up as a moving image or still image.
In the same way, Spanjer creates work from a very personal place whilst he addresses personal resolutions. He uses conflict and resolution as two ideals to work from, his interest lying in standing with conflict and addressing it. For these new prints, Spanjer intends the works to be far more explicit than they eventually became, due to the nature of the imagery he used. An equally important aspect to his process, is to analyse the original source to a point of eventual abstraction.