My Degree Show Exhibition Statement
Everywhere we look, everyday of our lives we are surrounded and bombarded with mass-media images that portray perfection and subsequently torment us as an audience with how we should aspire to be. The images exposed to us through magazine, television and billboard advertisements represent such flawlessness and an ideal beauty that is just truly unattainable because, in reality, models do not look like that themselves.
It came apparent in the second year of my degree that I was concerned with the significance of women in the media and the portrayal of their glorified slenderness and unachievable perfection. This came at a time when the issues of ‘size zero’ became recognized and underweight models began to become banned from top fashion shows. This led me to develop a concern about the pressures on the audience and their constructions of negative body images and low self-esteem, leading to addictions and illnesses to help achieve their desired appearances.
The media imagery we are subjected to have gone through long processes to reach our eyes. The models we see depicted have spent hours having make-up professionally applied, the most skilfully trained photographers take flattering shots and then finally, expert digital artists using editing software to manipulate and retouch the images. However, what may seem like a lengthy process, it is just a short time in creating a luscious beauty out of an average looking person.
My work consists of appropriating found media images from magazines; these are images that have already gone through the professional processes and manipulated to create perfection. I have then in turn converted the images back in to a digital format by scanning at a high resolution and working on them through using the digital image editing software ‘Adobe Photoshop CS2’. My methods have been to reverse the professional editing processes to create the opposite of perfection or to overuse the processes to remove important aspects and characteristics.
The intentions I have are to highlight the procedures each and every mass-media image we see goes through, whilst at the same time endeavouring to draw attention to the sociological pressures taken on by the audience with regard to eating disorders, drug use and the inevitable aging of our bodies.
I have taken inspiration from several key influences, from the performance artist Orlan, who documented the transformation of her own body during and after plastic surgery procedures; her aim was not to attain the commonly held status of beauty but question the status of the body within the society. I became fascinated by the work of fashion photographers, particularly Corinne Day’s intimate and raw images of Kate Moss and Steven Klein’s ambiguous images of celebrities where he revels in complicating their perceived identities rather than reinforcing them. I was also intrigued by the Dove films for the Campaign for Real Beauty and particularly the Metropolitan Police’s campaign illustrating the degenerative effects on the human bodies of drug addicts.
Cindy Sherman’s commentary on the role and representation of women in society and the media, and her intentions to shock and explore the disgusting and find beauty within it has given me motivation, along with another photographer, Alice Odilon. Odilon took self-portraits depicting the human body in all its glory, skinny and close to death. Her work was guided by her self-consciousness; she suffered from anorexia and in a sense used her art as a reflection on herself and to give herself existence, whilst also using it as a form of therapy.
My work began with developing a process of removing facial features by over working professional methods to create a flawless complexion. The intentions were to represent a loss of the depicted models personality whereby removed facial features disconnected them from any form of communication to the audience. My methods developed through research and influences, particularly that of my studied artists who explored the disgusting, which gave stimulation to reverse the techniques and place back into the imagery imperfections that would otherwise been removed.
Audience reaction has been a significant factor within creating my work and due to appropriating media images viewed by public eyes it was a decision to place selected work back into the public. Taking inspiration from Guerrilla and Culture Jamming artists, I documented work in bus-stop advertising spaces and areas visible to just a female audience.
The key objectives have been to create a response from the audience, provoking them and confusing them into having to look twice. My intentions are to shock and generate uncertainty and I became aware that to ensure a more powerful reaction, a recognised and famous figure was needed, and with her high-profile life and recent news of drug use, the iconic supermodel Kate Moss became a meaningful figure to use within my work.
Corinne Day’s portraits of Kate Moss, “The Montage of Nine Face” (2007) portrayed Moss in a natural state and were used as media imagery within magazines. I found these portraits of Moss to reveal part truths about her character and I wanted to develop upon this with regards to her use of drugs and the possible physical damages to her body in future years if she had become addicted. The Metropolitan Police’s documentation of drug users here became constructive towards the development of my work where I could observe the degenerative effects, along with my own documentation of a maturing face.
The decision on the scale of my final work has been key due to not being able to place in a public space, and the scale of a billboard advert keeps and suggests the idea that it is a media image. However, the process became time consuming and complicated in manipulating the images, drawing with a graphics tablet to produce a realistic and subtle image that would create a particular audience reaction, whilst also indicating the possibilities of technology. We know Kate Moss does not look like this, but my images show she does. Therefore revealing and encouraging the public that we must not believe the media images we are surrounded by and feel pressured into attaining the portrayed ideal beauty that doesn’t even exist because it has all been faked and “photoshopped”.