In her photos, installments and paintings, artist Annique Delphine wraps vocal feminism, body issues and the doom of patriarchy in humorous commentary—and there indeed are boobs everywhere. A visit in the artist’s studio and a talk about boobs on a couch made of boobs.
WORDS: ERIC MIRBACH
PHOTOS: ANNA VATHEUER
25-09-20 / Embassadors
“I’m a flawed human being and I am always trying to see the beauty in life.” That’s how Annique describes herself and we couldn’t have wished for a better translation of the feelings Annique’s work provokes in us when we enter her Berlin studio.
The space the 40-year-old works and lives in are bright and spacious and it’s obvious that her life revolves around her art, because these rooms do, too. There’s a lot of pink, there’s a lot of paintings, sculptures and photographs—and there’s a lot of boobs.
“I first saw them in a store that was selling all kinds of novelty items,” Annique tells us about the tiny boobs she uses in abundance for her work, i.e. for her couch made entirely out of little artificial breasts. “They were individually wrapped and on the packaging it said ‘Grab them! Squeeze them! Play with them!’ They were so round and perfect and pink and cute. They are actually stress balls.”
”It was great to have this seemingly endless supply of boobs.“
Annique bought a couple, started making and photographing objects, and realized she had something. “It quickly became very expensive because I kept needing more and more to make bigger and bigger objects. I found the factory that makes them and ordered directly from them, which was such an adventure, because the minimum order was 1000 boobs and they were shipped from China in seven or eight large boxes. I had boxes of boobs stashed everywhere in the corners of my studio. It was just great to have this seemingly endless supply of boobs.”
But why boobs? To understand that, first we need to learn more about Annique’s journey. “I think I always had an interest in art, but it took me a while to understand this could be a profession for me,” Annique remembers. “After Highschool, all my friends seemed to have a plan. They all went on to study law or business but I had no clue who I wanted to be. I think I wanted to just exist for a while.”
But she had to do something.” Back then, the only thing I thought I was good at was modeling/acting. So I ended up in Milan, first working as a model but not booking enough jobs to get by. And then I met this movie producer one evening, who told me if I really wanted to be an actress, I should come to LA and he would help me get started. I was 20 and super naive and just kind of packed up and left for California. I stayed there for seven years, struggling in that business and being all kinds of self destructive until I rediscovered my love for photography.”
”I was struggling, being all kinds of self-destructive, until I rediscovered my love for photography.“
“I started taking self portraits, kind of obsessively for a few years. Documenting my own sadness and my craving to feel beautiful and seen and really digging deep into that. It was like a journey to re-connect with myself.”
“Modeling,” Annique explains, “is a profession which, from the outside, may look like all you do is look pretty and getting pampered, but in reality it’s a job that constantly chips away at your confidence and your sense of self. I had worked in that profession for 10 years at that point and one day I just knew I couldn’t do it any longer. I was constantly trying to starve myself to be thin enough, I was constantly self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to feel some kind of joy. Photography was my way out of that. It was therapeutic. And once I tapped back into my creativity, I found art to be very healing.”
Annique started working as a photo assistant, then picked up some first jobs as a photographer in LA, so she started to believe that photography could be an alternative career for her. Around the same time, her US visa was expiring, so “it all kind of came together”, as she puts it.
“I gave away almost everything I owned and moved to Berlin with just one suitcase, my camera equipment and a box full of Habseligkeiten. I applied for photography schools in Berlin and moved here before having been accepted to any because I knew I didn’t want to live anywhere else. Berlin is where I feel most at home.”
And then she became a mother.
”I realized how harshly I judge my appearance and wanted a way to express all these feelings I had.“
“After I had my child, I got really triggered by how my body had changed through my pregnancy. I started realizing how harshly I judge my appearance and I think I wanted to find a way to express all these feelings I had. Feelings of not being enough, feelings of conflict with all the expectations I feel as a woman and as a mother. And I also wanted to explore where all those feelings came from. For instance; Why do I constantly feel this pressure to be attractive and pleasing and nurturing as a woman? How has the environment I live in and grew up in shaped my reality?”
“I found myself obsessing over my body and especially my boobs”, ideas started to pop up and boobs found a way into her art, first “as a symbol of the way women are sexualized and dehumanized, stripped of their own agenda”, but slowly, this perception would be altered. “Now boobs have become a symbol of power for me. So I guess I have come full circle and reconnected with my own strength and autonomy as a woman.”
However grim the underlying topics in Annique’s work may be (nothing fun about sexism and objectification), there’s a certain funny quality to her work, a very delicate humor that balances out the seriousness of the underlying issues. For her, that’s easily explained:
“I think that’s my personality coming through. I like to process things with a side of humor and an easily digestible color palette. From my experience, many people are open to shifting their perspective when it invites itself through something they recognize as non-threatening or maybe even pleasing. I guess that’s another fragment of my personality. I’m a people pleaser, on a never-ending journey of trying to find the right balance between giving people what they want and yelling at them to stop objectifying others.”
”I felt like I had no control over my life because I was so young. I’m still healing from that experience.“
Another thing that’s omnipresent in Annique’s work is control: Lack of it, trying to gain it, letting go of it. For the artist, that is indeed something she likes to explore, her “own inner struggle, my need for a sense of control.”
“Art gives me freedom to play with that in a safe environment. Having worked at such a young age in an industry that can be very abusive has greatly impacted me. In a way I felt like I had no control over many aspects of my life and was so accessible to the ideas others had of me because I was so young. I’m still healing from that experience.”
“When I work, there’s a huge sense of release whenever something’s not going the way I want it to and I have to let go of my expectations. I just let the work reveal itself to me. It’s a flow that feels intoxicating and it’s the best feeling when that happens.”
We leave Annique’s studio to go for a walk around her neighborhood for a couple last photos. “I’ll show you my favorite bridge,” she tells us.
“I’ve always felt that someone else’s pain is also my pain,” Annique explains while we walk, addressing her frequent posts about the Black Life Matters movement on Instagram. “We are all one. I feel it is my responsibility to help create a world in which everyone feels safe and understood.”
“So if you had to put everything you want to express with the work you’re doing into one sentence, what would that sentence be?” we ask before we say goodbye.
”Women aren’t objects.”