Constructing Masculinity with Artist Joe Daniels

Constructing Masculinity with Artist Joe Daniels

Exploring issues of masculinity and the perception of gender, artist Joe Daniels utilises the aesthetics found on construction sites to showcase that gender is a socially constructed idea. Inviting viewers into a gender fluid flamboyant party zone, our Marketing Director Megan Staunton talks to Joe about his latest project, Constructing Masculinity, the role of male stereotypes and lad culture, and the hard-hitting statistics of male suicide.

Megan Staunton: Your project Constructing Masculinity explores a lot of important issues dealing with male stereotypes. What made you decide to address this issue, and why now?

Joe Daniels: I feel the need to change people’s perceptions of gender, particularly male stereotypes, because of my own personal experiences. I have always felt the pressure to fit in with other lads, to behave a certain way and to engage in male activities. This has never been my interest and has only ever held me back. I am working with this now because it is an urgent topic. With male suicide rates at an all-time high, it is important that we raise awareness and tackle the issues with masculinity before these statistics continue to climb.

Joe Daniels

MS: Living in the county of Essex that stereotypes both genders with its pejorative macho men and the derogatory connotations the label ‘Essex girl’ provokes, do you feel your exhibition will encounter more challenges showcased in Essex, than if it were presented in a more gender fluid region such as London or Brighton?

JD: Definitely. I think that my work has a greater purpose within Essex because it will challenge more people. I see cities such as London and Brighton to be much more progressive and accepting of differences. However, Essex may be far more progressive than certain places. Grayson Perry recently visited cage fighters in the North-East of England during his Channel 4 series, All Man, a place which proved to be much less open to the idea of a modern masculine, and in turn saw a downward spiral of male despair and suicide cases.

Joe Daniels

MS: You’ve used the aesthetics of construction site signs and repurposed them with rebuttal messages such as, ‘No I will not “grow some balls” or “man up”’ and then contrasted them with hard-hitting facts like, ‘In 2013, 78% of suicides in the UK were male’. By creating a literal construction site showing that social constructs are killing men, what are you aiming to make viewers feel? And how do you think they will respond?

JD: Whilst creating a fun, party-like atmosphere within my installation, I am also using shock factor to grab my audience’s attention. With any work that I create, I love to always include this element of fun, but I had to be aware that this is also a very serious subject.

MS: Exploring identity and ignoring the convention of conformity, aside from yourself, who do you find is championing these ideas in the media? And what makes your work different?

JD: Grayson Perry has been a massive influence on my work. His approach to tackling gender stereotypes has made me learn so much about myself. I am also heavily influenced by the feminist movement, and their struggle over the past century to fight for equal rights for women. What I think makes my work different is that I consider myself to be a feminist, therefore I am working from a male feminist’s perspective. I think that it is important for men to be more aware of feminism because it teaches morals and reminds us that we are all on the same level. To quote Obama: “It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism, too.”

Grayson Perry

MS: And finally, what can we expect next?

JD: This project has confirmed my subject for me. Now I know what I am working with, I am aiming to approach these topics in a much more abstract manner. I am currently working on an installation for my degree show!


Written by Megan Staunton,

Marketing Director

Visuals courtesy of Joe Daniels


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