This week, I went through my notes and decided to do a little word association thing. I wrote down on some note cards keywords about body image (i.e., plastic surgery, criticism, death, and power), emotions (i.e., shame, double, fear), wearables (i.e., timepieces, hat, shoes), and parts of the body (i.e., back, head, foot). Then, I grouped them into piles that seemed to make sense. When something seemed missing, I just wrote a new card and added it. My groups are below. Following this, a group from our Wearables class went to Material Connexion and we saw a lot of really nice textiles, rubbers, metals, and other stuff that I’m not really sure how to categorize. I took some pictures of stuff I liked, also below.
The Material Connexion visit was really helpful. I liked the knobby fabrics and materials, and came away with some thoughts about emphasizing our flaws vs hiding them. Maybe I’ll make some pants that make music when your thighs rub together. Or a hump that talks to you. In any case, it’s about time I face my P-comp fears and start to prototype! (Oh, my!)
Group 2: Image
Group 3: Doubt
Group 4: Desire
Group 5: Legs (body)
Group 6: Adornment
In Materials class, we covered molding and casting with plaster. I really liked the assignment for this week, which was just to make a cast of my hand.
The steps are pretty simple, though easy to mess up. Basic run through: Just cover your hand in Vaseline, stick it in some Alginate, wait for Alginate to harden. Alginate is mixed at a 1:1 ratio – one part Alginate, one part cold water. (Hot water makes it harden much faster than you expect, and possibly before you’ve put your hand in the Alginate.) When the Alginates done, slowly remove your hand. You’ll have a negative mold of your hand. Pour into this some molding plaster – 2:1 ratio, plaster to water – and wait for it to harden. The plaster will take under an hour to harden, but it will take a few days to completely dry. When it’s thoroughly dry, you can use it in silicone rubber or polyurethane rubber molds.
Over the past week or two, I’ve been collecting a lot more information about body image, or the body, in relation to artists’ works. Particularly, scholars who’ve written about the body, artists who use the body in their art, or artworks featuring the body or body image. It’s been actually quite interesting to look through all of this information. Here’s a list of what I’ve come across below. For some of them, I’ve written some short thoughts or descriptions about what I’ve seen or understood.
Marina Abramovic, (performance art) Rhythm 0:
In Rhythm 0, Abramovic placed about 70 articles of pain and pleasure in front of her, and then stood as an object while the audience manipulated the objects with her body. Starting out innocently, the performance turned more malicious and aggressive as audience members began to cut her skin, tore her clothes, fondled her breasts and even put a loaded gun to her head. (She provided the gun and the bullet.) When a guard announced that the performance had ended, Abramovic, now teary eyed, walked towards her audience as one of them, yet many or all of them literally ran away. The artwork questions how we objectify each other and tests the limits of our civility towards each other.
Carolee Schneemann, (performance art) Interior Scroll:
In Interior scroll, Schneeman reads a paper scroll as she simultaneously pulls it from her vagina. Definitely an act of reclaiming her body and her ownership of her sex.
“I thought of the vagina in many ways– physically, conceptually: as a sculptural form, an architectural referent, the sources of sacred knowledge, ecstasy, birth passage, transformation.”
Barbara Kruger, (photography collage) including Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face, Your Body is a Battleground, You Are Not Yourself:
I have to admit that I don’t quite get the art, but I really like the phrase, “Your Body is a Battleground”. It represents so well how strongly we have to remain conscious of the fact that we have a right to not look like how the media, fashion, and the contemporary body aesthetic tells us we should look.
Cindy Sherman, (performance/photography) including Untitled Film Stills and other photos series in which she dresses up as other people/identities:
This is an amazing selection of images that challenge identity and image. When I looked through these photos, I thought “Who are we really?” Is our identity ours, or do we in some way embody the identity of others? I’m still not so sure I know what Cindy Sherman really looks like…. Link
Pipilotti Rist (video performance) PickelPorno:
Pipilotti Rist apparently made her mark with this video. It features a man and a woman, some nudity, and a fish-eye camera, along with other imagery; some sexual. At first, I really didn’t like the video because not only did I not see any intention, the production quality is fairly poor. (I guess I’m used to HD!) I turned it off, and then returned to watch it. After a while, I found enjoyment in the unusual or overlooked perspective views of the body. For instance, with the camera so close to the body, human skin is seen as it really is – hairy and imperfect. I found that while I often wanted to turn away, I couldn’t. It was like a visual exploration of the body, reminiscent of the way 2 lovers explore each other’s bodies. View film on YouTube
Ana Mendieta (performance/experimental) Cosmetic Facial Variations:
She was a Cuban artist whose work included a series of “Cosmetic Facial Variations, such as looking ambiguously male and/or female.
Orlan (‘whose medium is plastic surgery – commenting on the world of artificial changes to the body to be perfect/beautiful’):
Seems as though she has undergone a series of plastic surgeries, and then uses not only the surgical results as artwork, but also the surgery videos. She also seems to want to push our interpretations of chasteness and sexuality in religion, and the openness, or lack of openness, of female sexuality.
Women are Passive and receive the action; Men are Active and give the action
Men are both the lead actors and the spectator; women are there for them
Women’s lack of a penis is a threat of castration and unpleasure; are “disarmed” simply due to lack of phallus/phallus-symbol
Scopophilia, “love of looking”
Cinema defines space, time and size
Image of women used for detachment and voyeuristic active/passive mechanisms
Interview with Vanessa Bancroft, from The GuardianInterview with Vanessa Bancroft:
The artist makes performance pieces featuring up to 100 semi-nude and nude models, many of whom resemble the artist and/or have eating disorders. Bancroft admits that she has been struggling with eating disorders (exercise bulimia) since she was 12.
Janine Antoni (process) Gnaw:
The artist took two blocks of chocolate and lard, bit into them piece by piece, and then made a chocolate box and lipstick out of the pieces she’d bitten. I appreciated this for the repurposing of the lard and chocolate, but biting into lard feels viscerally creepy. Detailed description from MoMA and from Brooklyn Museum. Link
Chris Woebken (design, technology)Animal Perception Helmets:
I love that these seem so game-like, fun, and goofy. My favorite is the ant, because it’s such an abstract view of the world. It also reminds me of Pipilotti Rist’s work, Pickelporno. I’m considering the use of magnification in my project.
Simon Høgsberg (photography) Faces of New York:
A photography project featuring 10 New Yorkers who Høgsberg found immediately fascinating after a month of looking, 7 hours a day. Link
Phillip (“Mr Toledano”) Toledano (photography) A New Kind of Beauty:
Features a series of still photographs of people who have clearly undergone some type of plastic surgery. The people themselves did not look “normal” – as in, their plastic surgery procedure(s) was very obvious – but their portraits were beautiful. For the most part, I found that many of them looked alike, both men and women, as if the same facial aesthetic was the same for both men and women. They seemed so much like a new species of hermaphroditic, male/female neutral people, I wanted their names to be more exotic than just Steve, Yvette, or Michael….
A few links on eating disorders in men and ballet dancers. (Note: There are few reference links provided, so the factualness of many of these statements cannot be easily verified, but the anecdotal information is useful.)
“A ballet dancer is very aware of what her body looks like. At each practice she attends she wears skin-tight clothes and dances strenuously in front of large mirrors. A dancer has to look at herself for many hours in a day and this can cause a realization in the dancer. The general public may look in the mirror for a few minutes a day, hardly aware of what they really look like, but a dancer has no choice but to stand in front of a mirror and compare herself with others in the room…. The truth is as stated by a dancer, ‘In the real world people who are not thin do not get jobs.’ “
Emma Hack (skin illustrator, photographer, sculptor), Various skin illustrations:
I just came across this artists work and found the camouflage aspect of her art really interesting and beautiful. And, I enjoyed how the work focused less on the body and more of the body’s disappearance into the art. Her website is emmahackartist.com.
Genesis 1:27God Created man in his own image:
Lastly, I was just listening to the radio the other day, and there was a guy talking about homosexuality and tolerance. The man speaking was relatively conservatively religious, except that he advocated for tolerance towards gays and lesbians (though not towards gay marriage.) In any case, he quoted the Bible and it seemed to fit with my body image interest, so I’ll just add it here, too. Link.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
On Sept 27, the Design for Greenfab class made a visit to the Bronx to visit the Greenfab facilities, and to discuss a little electronics while demonstrating how to make “throwies”. Throwies are LEDs attached to a 3V coin cell battery. Fairly simple to put together – you just put the appropriate leads on the battery and attach them with magnets and tape. Voila!
So, while the actual p-comp project was quite simple to put together and explain, our bigger goal was to introduce electricity to the kids, who were mostly boys around age 12. Not exactly the most attentive audience.
At the table with Sue and Macaulay, the 3 of us sort of struggled to explain how electricity worked; how exactly the electricity got from the battery to the LED; how do we know that the LED won’t blow up; why is 3 volts better than 6; what if we want to light up more than one LED; and how long will it take before the battery dies out?
I will say that while the kids seemed less enthralled with our electricity explanation, they did seem to enjoy the personal expressiveness of throwies – particularly when they added about 3 LEDs. I’m not yet entirely sure how to keep the kid’s attention better for next time, but probably just having a more interactive learning session might help.
In the development of my project on body image, I started thinking more about the concept of body image. I wanted to incorporate more interpretations of body image, outside of only the idea of body size. But, I realized that in order to make something that was more representative of what body image means to other people, I needed to talk to other people about their own experiences.
I conducted a few interviews with a few other students. Most of them actually turned out be of the same relative minority group – female, Asian – though I did get different viewpoints in the group, including those of an international student, and another interview with a gay male. I really found the international and the male/gay male perspectives very interesting because they discussed concerns with body image that represent non-American ideals and perceptions, as well as really understanding more about the male aesthetic, from a male perspective. And, the gay viewpoint was really fascinating, since I hadn’t thought as much about how much sexuality might play into body image.
From the Asian students, I did learn a few things. First, Western cultures are considered the body aesthetic to follow. That is, it’s better to have light or pale skin and to be thin.
The desire to emulate people in the West seems to come mainly from the huge economic differences between many in Asia and many in the West, (i.e., the desire to be as rich and glamorous as the people from the West are perceived to be). In addition, these aesthetic desires also seem to be due to exposure to Western media and to a history of, particularly, European colonization, though colonization in general seems to be an influence, too. Resembling a previously colonized people seems to not be considered a high standard of beauty.
Even in countries where many people have darker skin tones, advertisements to women include many ads about using creams to lighten their skin tone. And, undergoing plastic surgery to permanently get more Western features (incl. nose, eyes, jawline) is a relatively accepted cosmetic practice. In addition to skin tone, there is a big emphasis on attempting to achieve a thinness that would be considered relatively extreme in the US. The Asian students said that their relatives and sometimes strangers are very willing to offer their honest criticisms of women who might be slightly considered average or just above average in the US. One student said that though at one point she weighed more at one point in her life, she feels more comfortable in the US because people seem to be more accepting of different body types. She also feels that in the US darker skin tones are valued as an exoticism.
This video, produced by the BBC, discusses controversy raised after a well-known Bollywood star endorses an Indian skin lightening cream that critics claim reinforces the stereotype that lighter skin is good. Apparently, skin lightening creams are a £90M industry. Asian skin cream controversy, from the BBC
The only male student, who was also gay, made it very clear that “if you want to be somebody” as a gay man, image is of the utmost importance. Culturally, many gay men seem preoccupied with the desire to physically look good, which seemed to represent a certain superficiality and shallow attachment to others. He said that he does spend time on his appearance, but he didn’t feel that he went as far as some gay men do and he finds the superficial and shallow attitude disappointing.
All the students mentioned that there is some type of “ideal” body type. It differed for each student, which depended on the values of each student, as well as their cultural background. Most cited a Hollywood ideal: tall, thin and curvy – perhaps, Selma Hayek.
My idea for the 5 senses wearable was to make something using the sense of smell – which made me think of garbage. So, I decided to make a dress or shirt that can be used as a garbage bag. I thought it might also be good for people with littering problems.
It’s pretty simple. It’s made of 2 layers, one white garbage bag, one black. I used a heat gun and a lot of patience to put it all together.
It was the first time I used a dress form, which actually helped me a lot. Except that I forgot that I’m about 14″ taller than the form. For future wearables using the body, I’ll try to use it again. It was all actually pretty fun…
After I was done, I made this little video. The facetiousness is all in the music. 😉