Brazilian Artist Dons New Masks for Chinese Version of Sensory Self-Portraits

Rio de Janeiro-based photographer and visual artist Edu Monteiro has been working on his bizarre series Sensorial Self Portraits for a number of years. In each of the works, Edu puts on a unique mask made of everyday objects, each of which evokes a certain sense of touch and smell. The Plus managed to get sneak peak at the latest pictures in Edu’s ongoing series, all inspired by a visit to China.

“In China, I was very impressed at a market by the products used in traditional Chinese medicine: frogs, snakes, mushrooms, dehydrated dogs…these products invited me to a new sensory experience, from there I began this new series,” Edu tells us.

Edu’s self-portraits seem to convey a sort of visceral power, at once with the immediate impact of an image and yet with a cerebral meaning lurking underneath. “With the unprecedented fever for selfies which has invaded social networks, there’s been an emptying of content; self-portraits have lost their strength,” Edu asserts. “My work is a criticism of the vacuous nature of selfies. The fact I never show my face suggests mutant beings shaped by consumption, as we have seen in many selfies on social networks.”

We spoke to the man behind the mask:

The Plus: Could you tell how you started the series?
Edu Monteiro:
For the first nine photos I did in 2009, I began using the same materials used by artists I admire, like the plants that the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo used in the 16th century, or cigarettes that contemporary English artist Sarah Lucas uses…after this I was choosing materials for the sensory and aesthetic power they possess.

TP: What is the message you would like to convey with this series?
The message is about the contemporary masks we carry and the power they have. To the philosopher Michel Foucault, a mask is a cryptic language, coded, secret, sacred, which is deposited on the body, calling the power of a god, the deaf sacred power or the liveliness of desire. These are transactions where the body is torn from its own space and projected onto another space.

Below are some of the older pieces from Edu’s series:

TP: What is it about self-portraiture you like so much?
I am passionate about the history of the self-portrait, an act that comes along with the invention of photography, through the famous self-portrait of Hippolyte Bayard held two months before the official announcement of the discovery of photography by Daguerre. Also, we live in an era of social networks, in which the production of images is increasingly necessary for the subject to appear on the world scene.

TP: You’ve had a crazy amount of incredible/weird objects on your head, is there anything you wouldn’t put on your head? (Or is there something still on your list?)
There is nothing that I consider impossible to put on my head. Until now…I want to make a huge cotton candy head!

TP: Will you continue this series?
I always say I’ll stop, but there is always some new object that calls me, as happened in China.