William St Leger
Even if your voice trembles – A visual exploration of shame

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According to philosopher and discourse theorist Michel Foucault, affects, and thus shame, are expressions of power relations between individual subjects and between subjects and institutions. In modernity, there was a transplantation of shame into the bodies of the subjects. So even today, we react with blushing, lowered eyes, trembling voices, or a feeling of wanting to sink into the ground when we feel ashamed. That shame is an affect we should communicate about in order to free ourselves from it is the basic premise of William St Leger’s participatory installation. At the beginning of his work on shame he searched for people willing to talk with him about shame. St Leger found people through internet communities, and contacted people he met in the neighborhood around Nollendorfplatz.

William St Leger – „Even if your voice trembles“

St Leger, who calls himself a street artist, has a deep interest in the people around him, in social realities, and in the dark side of city life. The north of Schöneberg is known for its diversity, street prostitution, and visible drug use.

For his work, St Leger selected a sex worker, a victim of sexual abuse, a trans man, a person with eating disorders, a person living with HIV, a person with a sexual fetish for consuming feces, a non-binary femme male, a drug user, and a porn actor. The people are anonymized in the collages hanging on the wall, as is the information in their interviews. The characteristics of the interviewed persons are obscured in the digital prints.

St Leger’s intention is to show empathy for people and their stories, to share experiences, and in doing so, to endure memories together that always bring darkness into the present. The interviews often focus on childhood shame, forms of punishment, and domestic violence. Abuse of power plays as much a role in the implementation of shame as the feeling of never having been loved. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, printed on paper, and then put through a shredder. This is where the transformative part of St Leger’s work begins. Together with the interviewed persons, the artist used the shredded paper and paste to create bricks, which he then assembled into a wall. Each brick has a different color, and it is possible to decipher individual letters. Objects related to the interviewed person were added to the bricks. For example, pink glitter for the non-binary man, condoms for the sex worker, and medication for the person living with HIV.

The transformation of shameful memories was a theme of St Leger’s previous work, which sometimes bordered on the religious, for example, a collection of secrets. The molded bricks now stand in the middle of the installation, at once a dividing wall and yet also a carrier for the enclosed feelings of shame. With this, St Leger hopes that the wall will enable the liberation of shame in our bodies.

Text: Dr. Silke Förschler

About William St Leger:

Will St Leger is an artist and activist from Ireland. Will’s work as visual artist is rooted in bringing about social and cultural change through the participative involvement of target groups and the general public. Will has spent decades working and volunteering for several activist groups such as Greenpeace, Peace One Day, ACT UP as well as grassroots LGBTQ+ groups.

For more information: Twitter I Instagram

Fresh A.I.R. #5 Online-Showcase

The Online-Showcase offers an opportunity to get an overview of the highly diverse projects of the fourth class of Fresh A.I.R. artists with their different kinds of media and aesthetics.

On view are video and photographic materials about the individual projects, each of which is accompanied by an explanatory text that aims to offer insights into the work’s aesthetic experience.

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