31 August 2016
31 August 2016 - Written by Laurence Cornet
Deep in the woods and wild areas, hidden by the soft angles of leaves, some men experience a sexuality based on the unknown and the unspoken – a practice known as cruising that Katia Repina and Luca Aimi have documented in Barcelona, where it is mainly despised.
Katia Repina and Luca Aimi were not driven by the sexual aspect of it; Repina has worked for over four years on a project about pornography so, as she jokes, “nothing can surprise me anymore”. What aroused the two photographers’ interest was the radical non-conformity and bravery of cruisers. “Each time you speak about this place, it’s seen as a place for perverts. We didn’t like the idea of judgement.”
Often, the two pulled their cameras down, hid and experienced the mix of adrenaline and vulnerability inherent to cruising. “Doing so, we changed our idea of what is actually sexual and exciting.” A world away from Tinder and other dating websites, cruising offers a spontaneous, sometimes dangerous, alternative to profile swiping on a screen.
I Don’t Need To Know You, states the title of this project. Cruisers are not interested in their partner’s favorite restaurant, job or age. Often, they don’t even talk. “The language is interesting because it’s not verbal. We don’t care about the sexual part, we focus on the process, the dance of men in search of a perfect match.”
In order to protect their subjects’ anonymity and to emphasise the essential rawness of cruising, Repina and Aimi gave a dominant space to nature. Skin and branches fuse, eyes pierce through bushes, bodies emerge from shadows. “Our life is so regulated now, and it goes the same for sex. Why do we have sex in places where we should have sex?”, Repina wonders. For cruisers, nature is the connecting element, and a space they adopt to express their sexual fantasies.
“The truth is that it’s very difficult to understand if it makes you feel good or bad, it makes you feel like it’s some kind of addiction, whether you want it or not”, confides Francesco, a cruiser. Aware of this thin line, never do Repina and Aimi steal an image. Each time, they talk and set up a meeting for a portrait and an interview - the work also comes as an abstract video and an immersive installation.
Against the obstinacy of the government who cut trees naked to prevent cruisers from hiding, Repina and Aimi offer a window for sharing. “Some of the men tell us things that they don’t express to anyone - we feel very grateful for their openness - they share so much.”
Luca Aimi (Italy) is a freelance photographer and visual artist exploring minority groups and their sense of belonging or lack of belonging in the various spaces they occupy. Follow him on Twitter.
Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn focusing on cultural and environmental issues.