Colonized, commodified, and reshaped by market forces, the palimpsestic female body is a site where cultural phenomenology and social perversions have historically been inscribed. Consumer society is fueled by a market that by nature must constantly develop new consumables and new consumers; as such, the body has increasingly become its terrain over the years. The dichotomy between self-representation and imposed representation reveals the complexities of gender and gender relations. As the state of the spectacle empties and nullifies every real identity, the media offers ideologically infused avenues for identity construction in its place. From the array of media texts, gender roles are realized, social norms are cemented and beauty standards are established. Body dysmorphia and plastic surgery are symptoms of a society that propagates beauty as the standard against which all women are measured, hinging a woman’s worth on her waistline and rendering self-hood a shifting experience – inauthentic and skin deep. Images are powerful—they shape, distort, liberate. Yet images can be manipulated as much as they can manipulate. As so, assemblage can function as a form of resistance, engagement, dialog. Through the appropriation of complicit media text, this series takes a look at how the poetic language of collage can be used to subvert overt representations, reclaim the gaze, reverse the narrative, and usher in more fluid, inclusive expressions of identity. Using the maelstrom of archival material in circulation as a point of departure, WOMEN examines the semiotic representation of gender and sexuality within the postmodern feminist framework of fragmentation. Analogous to the way society compartmentalizes, this refusal of stable categorization through abstractions affirms the ambiguities intrinsic to gender and sexuality. Marrying disconnected fragments of the known, a new blueprint of the unfamiliar emerges, a dialectical confrontation with reality constructed, radical forms of subjectivity born. This is a personal reality, not a programmatically social one. Through stripping away visual forms of representation, new constructions that go beyond objectification, exploitation, and hyper-sexualization are created.  From this reconfiguration of media text, new meanings and readings of gender, sexuality, beauty, class emerge that speak to strength and power.

by SAM HEYDT

Body dysmorphia and plastic surgery are symptoms of a society that propagates beauty as the standard against which all women are measured, hinging a woman’s worth on her waistline and rendering self-hood a shifting experience - inauthentic and skin deep. Images are powerful—they shape, distort, liberate.

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