1 The Body in the Mirror Re-imagining the Hyper-real Experience through Classical Sculpture Sung-Kwon Park MVA Queensland College of Art Griffith University Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Visual Arts. January 2006
2 ABSTRACT The definition of the body is uncertain within contemporary culture. This body in question is characterised by the pervasive and ubiquitous images of our visual culture, where mass media and advanced visual technology have created a highly simulated world. In this simulated world, the body is doubled. In this exegesis, I attempt to explore what the body means in contemporary visual culture by questioning and examining body image and its impact on our ideas of the body. I draw upon Baudrillard s notion of hyper-reality and have applied it to the body image. This has resulted in my statement that contemporary (body) images in their own right, exterminating the original (body). From this, the notion of the body in hyper-reality was formed and became a key concept for this exploration. In my visual practice, I conceived the idea of juxtaposing the contemporary body image with the classical statue through making an analogy between Baudrillard s critique of contemporary images and early Christianity s prohibition of the graven image. By combining the idea with my previous research tool of critical illusion/ambiguity (a strategy where illusion or ambiguity is systematically arranged to draw the viewer s attention and lead them to mediating on a certain issue), I conjured up a strategic device called tactical disguise where contemporary body images merge into classical sculptures, pretending to be them. Through this process of disguising, I attempt to place the contemporary body images in the theatrical past, attaining a critical distance, at the same time drawing out discourses arising from the ironic juxtaposition of the two. Centreing upon this key strategy, my visual practice explored issue such as celebrity culture and idolatry, mass media and voyeurism, the ideal body, surveillance culture, simulation and the body, body image as commodity by experimenting with different types of body image as the subject for statues: images of famous, anonymous, ordinary or simulated bodies. An attempt to evoke the notion of the body in hyper-reality through visual practice was crystallised in the work, In search of Russell Crowe. In this work, the sculptural object s interplay with other mediums such as video, performance, and photographs, brought an experimental aspect to the work, increasing the coherence and impact of my studio practice. This at the same time opened up a potential derived from the expansion of medium employed.
3 STATEMENT This work has not previously been submitted for a degree or diploma in any University. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the thesis contains no material previously published or written by another person except where due reference is made in the thesis itself. Sung-Kwon Park
4 TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgments.i Introduction 1 Chapter One The Relationship to My Previous Masters Research Project 3 Chapter Two The Body in Hyper-reality and Body Images 5 Chapter Three The Form of My Work..14 Chapter Four Description of My Work 21 Conclusion..30 Bibliography 32 List of Illustrations..35
5 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to sincerely thank: Jenny Watson, for her supervision and advice. Marilyn Carney, for her patient support and ongoing encouragement. Maree Cunnington, for her contribution to the completion of my thesis at the final stage of my research.
6 INTRODUCTION In my doctoral research project, I have investigated the impact of contemporary culture on our consciousness and perception of reality, in particular questioning what the body means in this increasingly visual and image saturated environment. In the East, the traditional idea of the body was not as something separate from the mind. In the West, however, the body is still perceived as separate, as a counterpart of the mind. 1 Significantly, an attempt to identify oneself is based on the recognition of one s body. Gallup (1928) sees the emergence of self-awareness, which includes body image, as being equivalent to the mergence of mind. Tiemersma (1989, p.47) notes that several psychologists remark that much of our knowledge of the world begins with the knowledge of our bodies. Current events show that our conventional ides of the body have been challenged by the ever changing cultural environment, particularly our increasingly visual culture exemplified by an ubiquity of images, the emergence of virtual reality, voyeurism and surveillance culture. It seems that the body s segregation from the mind has become more intense than ever with the contemporary visual environment encouraging the absence of body and/or conferring upon the body a being watched or manufacturable 2 other status, further undermining the sense of it as an integral part of our being. My research has been examining the change in the idea of body brought about through today s visual culture, which surrounds and affects perception and consciousness in ways we as yet barely understand. 1 Such different notion between East and West about the mind and the body becomes apparent when the field of medicine in both cultures is compared. Letwith ( provides an useful example of this by briefly examining some of the assumptions and philosophies of Western medicine. Western medicine is based on Cartesian philosophy that the body represents one functioning system and the mind another. [ ] Traditional Chinese medicine considers that the emotions are governed by individual organs. They do not consider the brain, or subconscious, as discrete entities, therefore the body and the mind are a real part of the same functional system. [ ] In spite of the constructive efforts of those who work in the field of mental health in Western nations, the body and the mind are generally still considered to be separate,[ ] 2 In her book Life in the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1995), Sherry Turkle describes the Internet as a significant social laboratory fro experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of the self.
7 In my studio work, I have explored the mechanism of illusion/ambiguity as a vehicle for generating debate about the body. This includes a study of perception, in particular, as it related to the generation of illusion. An analysis of the relationship between the viewer, space and objects has been important part of my investigation. In Chapter One, I begin with an enquiry into the relationship between my present research and previous MVA research in terms of theme and studio methodology. Chapter two attempts to develop theoretical foundations for the research in terms of its content. The first part of the chapter examines how our contemporary visual environment contributes to the collapse of the relationship between the body, vision and space. This is followed by discussion of the notion of the body in hyper-reality. From then on, the chapter explores the meaning of body images and their impact within visual culture. Chapter Three considers the form of my visual practice, articulating its conceptual and visual components. In this chapter, tactical disguise, an evolutionary form of critical illusion/ambiguity is analysed. Chapter Four makes descriptions of each work. As the work, In search of Russell Crowe crystallizes my visual practice; the largest proportion of pages is allocated to the description of this work.
8 Chapter One THE RELATIONSHIP TO MY PREVIOUS MASTERS RESEARCH PROJECT In the broader sense, my doctoral research can be seen as an extension of my previous research, which concerned how contemporary visual culture impacts upon our consciousness and perception of reality. Therefore, it seems appropriate to review my previous project in order to clarify its outcomes and implications and how they relate to the present work. In terms of subject matter, the main focus of my project was to explore some of the ways in which our sense of reality is challenged by simulation in a contemporary society characterised by mass media, urbanisation, commercial culture and ever-changing technology. Theoretically, my previous research drew upon the work of Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco, employing hyper-reality as a key term. According to Baudrillard (as cited in Walker 1994, p.122), simulations in the form of images, media had replace reality, creating a new hyper-reality. This was the central idea informing my research project. In the process of applying such theories to studio practice, I employed the sculptural form of the book (Fig 1) as a main component, playing the role of a kind of surrogate, provoking the viewer to think of the subject matter by simulating the mode of book, but at the same time tactically inducing difference from the original to undermine its implications. One of the crucial elements in the work was that of illusion/ambiguity created through such a process. This I called critical illusion/ambiguity, Mark Gomes (2001,np.) called it tactical hallucinations. The ambiguity was located in the gap between what it is perceived habitually at first glance and the actuality. Here, the illusion/ambiguity was utilised as an exploratory tool by which reality was questioned. In the catalogue essay accompanying my exhibition, (un) real, Gomes (ibid) states: Be it doggedly illusionistic, the entire aesthetic effect of Park s work depends upon the viewer s recognition that is isn t real, that it is an illusion. Like trompe l oeil, Park s constructions deceive at first glance, only to give everything away a moment later. [ ] What we admire in Park s work then, is not simply its resemblance to the real but precisely its subtle difference from it. See the real Mona Lisa and Yellow Pages charm us not because they imitate the real which they do expertly but because of the uncanny difference between them and their models. They succeed as equivalents to the real, not because they directly resemble it, but rather because they mark the difference between the real and the unreal world. [ ] Park seeks to recapture something of the contingencies and fluctuations of the real.
9 My doctoral research has inherited two major aspects from the previous research. Firstly, it pays attention to the notion of hyper-reality, the central idea of the MVA research, and attempts to explore the question of how the notion can be related and applied to the idea of the body in contemporary visual culture. Secondly, regarding studio methodology, it adopts critical illusion/ambiguity, the key strategy of visual practice in the MVA research and concerns how the strategy can be used in addressing the present topic. In this light, it can be said that my present research is closely linked to and has grown out of the previous explorations.
10 Chapter Two THE BODY IN HYPER-REALITY AND BODY IMAGES Body, Vision, Space and the Contemporary Visual Environment I remember when I was a child that I liked riding in auto vehicles, especially large ones like buses. One particular thing I remember about my experience is that I used to be puzzled by the way I perceived the world when the bus, in which I was sitting, began to move. In the old days in Korea, there used to be trees alongside the road, planted at regular intervals. The problem was that when the bus was moving, I felt as if the trees were running toward me and then running behind and away from me rather than that I myself, along with the bus, was moving forward. I used to try to re-order my perception to match what I knew to be the reality of what was happening, but in vain, I still perceived the same way. This perceptual oddity persisted until I grew much older. We know that newborn babies take time to adjust themselves to a new world. Through trial and error, they get to know how to connect their body to their surroundings with the help of all available senses. Gradually, they identify their body with themselves in relation to the surrounding environment, in particular, through vision. Therefore, it can be said that in earlier times, when nature determined the conditions of life, people learned about the world by moving their body and so seeing, and the sight of the body indicated its being there in actuality (unless it was an illusion like an image reflected on a pool of water). The point is that there was a sense of simultaneity between the body, vision and space. In modern times, however, where artificial environments are becoming increasingly dominant, especially where mass media and image technology are available, this is not necessarily true. In order to know the world that surrounds us, we don t need to move our body all the time. As in my childhood experience, quite often the world comes to us in the form of image; equally, the presence of the body image doesn t necessarily mean the actual body is there. We see here that within our contemporary image- saturated conditions, the conventional relationship between the body, vision and space the sense of simultaneity between them collapses. In this context, it can be said that today s visual culture, characterised by ubiquitous media and highly advanced visual technology, has bought into question the conventional idea of the body. My research concerns are centred upon the relationship between the image world and the body.
11 Mirror, Photographic Images and The Body in Hyper-Reality The mirror is perhaps the oldest form of artificial tool that can reflect our body and produce an image of it. It is probable that there is a connection between the experiences of humans in ancient times who saw their images reflected on still pools or glassy rock surfaces, and the invention of this tool. It is said that in Ancient China, mirrors were used as funerary and religious objects as they were believed to be sources of light illuminating the darkness of the tome (Newman & Newman 1978). However, for human beings the most interesting feature of the mirror is its use for the identification of self. Through this object we can see our body image and identify ourselves visually. Human beings are one of the few species that can identify themselves through the mirror. It is said that in experiments on animals responses to mirrors, dogs or cats do not recognise their own face in the mirror. They peep around the corner of the mirror, slink away or just lose interest in the experiment, while chimpanzees are able to recognise the image of themselves (Bates & Cleese 2001). 3 However, it should be acknowledged that it must have taken evolutionary time for the human being to become familiar with the reflected self-image in the mirror and identify it with himself/herself. Even in modern times, it must be interesting and challenging moment when one first encounters the reflection of oneself in a mirror. Certainly, there are psychological conflicts caused by the distance between the reflected image and the self. One is expected to go through a complex psychological process in accepting the image as oneself. This is certainly to do with what may be called inherent fear of the mirror image. The origins of the fear caused by the mirror image have been trace back to early human history. When still water pool perhaps served as the first mirrors, the ethereal quality of those shimmering images, which seems to emerge from the water s depths, caused early man to seek mystical explanations of their existence. Legends of mermaids, water-souls, and creatures of darkness were born. A person s reflection, like his shadow, was thought to symbolise the soul. The illusory space beyond the reflecting surface was thought to be the next world. Not surprisingly, people in many cultures avoided the likeness in fear that a prolonged gaze might allow their spirit to be trapped forever. Familiar superstitions persist (Newman & Newman 1978, p.1). 3 At the State University of New York, psychologist Gordon Gallup anaesthetized chimps and, while they were asleep, painted odourless red lines above their eyebrow. When they awoke, he set a mirror before them. They all tried to touch their foreheads, patted the red strip in puzzlement, and many then smelled their fingertips. This demonstrated that the chimps recognised their images, since otherwise they would not have checked their own bodies (ibid, p.48-49).
12 The fear the mirrored image brought to early humans seems to be closely related to that which people in certain cultures have of photographic images. When adventurous travellers approached an African tribe and attempted to take a photograph, the subjects tried to avoid this, believing that their soul could be taken. This is because in their belief, the image that shoes their body is seen not merely as a representation of themselves, but as the symbol of their soul. In many ways, the photograph has inherited many of these features of the mirror. Therefore, it can be seen as the modern version of the mirror. Considering the fact that modern life is full of such imagery from newspapers, magazines, television, cinema screens and the internet it is not an exaggeration to say that we are living, as Baudrillard has posited, in a kind of mirror condition, a world akin to a hall of mirrors. In relation to its unique role as a self-identification tool, one of the mystical and problematic aspects of the mirror is its ability to produce a double image of the body. This is also something photographs share with mirrors. The premise that the double can exist beyond the original has been a serious philosophical debating point. An example of critical attitudes about possible problems images may cause, is found in Christian thought of the early Middle Ages, in this case, in relation to representations of God. [ ]A representation of God, brings about idolatry, for the image attempts to achieve an essential connection with God; this it cannot so, all it achieves is idolatry, a false impression that the object)=representation) is the represented God himself (Erjavec 1999, p.32). The concern here is that the image cannot effect the connection with God, which is why it is made. Rather, it becomes God. Such scathing criticisms were aimed against traditional images, sculptures or paintings. Although the argument is confined to the question of religious faith, this can be extended appropriately to the modern context in relation to the proliferation of the body image. This notion has been seriously considered and further developed by Baudrillard in the contemporary context. According to Armatage (1995, pp ) Baudrillard argues:
13 That twentieth-century images (what he calls the technical images of photography, cinema and television) are more figurative and realistic than images of past cultures (painting and sculpture). He characterises them as diabolical, immoral and perverse : while they pretend to resemble the Real, anticipating the Real so that is has no time to reproduce itself, imposing their own immoral logic of extermination on the referent. In Baudrillard s theory, images stand in their own right, with no referent. They replace reality, creating hyper-reality. 4 When reality is dependent upon the mediation of image, it becomes subjected to manipulation or distortion. An example can be found in body images appearing in glossy and commercial advertisements or fashion magazines such as Vogue or Elle. In most cases, those images go through photo-retouching as a way of conforming to commercial requirements. They have to be highly desirable, perfect and flawless (wrinkles, imperfections or unnecessary hair can be removed without causing any pain). Recent advanced digital technology has made this process much easier. Even non-professionals can manipulate their photo images using photoshop. The idea of truth in photographic images has become not just out of fashion, but contentious. As Baudrillard suggested, when the mirror takes its modern form (photography, cinema and television), images become increasingly unrelated to reality. Therefore, it becomes possible to argue as Baudrillard does that the body images in the media operate according to their logic, that they don t refer back to the original bodies. The logical foundation for the notion of the body in hyper-reality is established on this ground. In this respect, examining the relationship between the body and image culture offers a useful starting point for further investigation of the notion of the collapse of the conventional idea of the body. 4 The term, hyper-reality is defined more or less differently by Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard. At the introduction of his book, Hyperreality and Global Culture, Nick Perry (1998, p.1) identifies the meaning of hyper-reality by the two as follows. Umberto Eco employs the term hyperreality to invoke what he understands as those culturally specific situations in which the copy comes first, whereas for Jean Baudrillard it corresponds to that altogether more general contemporary condition in which both representation and reality have been displaced by simulacra (defined as copies without originals).
14 Celebrities, Mass Media and the Body as Subject Matter An interesting contemporary phenomenon is the generation of celebrity culture. It can be said that in many ways today s celebrities have been made through media exposure. Today s images, which usually take photographic form, put an exceedingly heavy emphasis on appearance and on being, and remaining, in view. The unknown and unseen audience for an image has expanded so enormously that it has ushered in a new kind of fame, helping to establish the cult of celebrity (Goldberg & Silberman 1999). In attaining the status of celebrity, the visual properties of the body have become more important than ever before. Therefore, it can be said that in some cases, such celebrities become famous not necessarily because they are talented but because of their appearance. This so-called appearance cult is, to a large extent, a product of our increasingly visual culture, which constantly bombards us with an excess of images. In relation to celebrities as modern icons and the contemporary tendency in favour of visual taste, it is interesting to trace their relationship to the visual culture of early history. In the early Middle Ages, Christian thought shows a scathing critique of images: Christianity brings with it into the Greco-Roman universe the prohibition of making graven images, privileges the voice (the word of God) and admonishes idolatry. Through the next few centuries a series of early Christian thinkers attempts to purge society of its vices, many of which are directly identified with sight or deemed to be essentially dependent upon it (Erjavec 1999, p.32). Erjavec (ibid) identifies two reasons for this first forceful critique of visual culture : first, theatres, Roman games and races are a remnant of the pagan past and its idolatry, second, to make an image of God is considered profanation and desecration. As he notes, before the time of Christianity, sculpture had been closely associated with various pagan religions, so it was natural that monumental, life-like statues, graven images, had no place in the new religion. What is interesting here it that sculptures in Roman times were considerably influenced by Greek sculptures. This analysis leads to an idea that the early Christian critical attitude to visual culture can be seen as a critique of the tradition of Greek culture in which the importance of man was claimed in the affairs of the world. The Greek gods were perceived in perfected human form and sight was seen as the most excellent sense of all.
15 In fact, historically, it seems that there has been a close relationship between the status of the human being and that of body images in visual culture. When humans become important in the affairs of the world, body images tend to flourish. In that sense, it can be argued that in modern times it is the absence of constriction from religion and the emergence of a mass media environment based on capitalism and technology which has opened up an unprecedented visual age where images of body proliferate. Mass media s capability of disseminating pervasive images enables celebrities to be given a kind of aura, which can be compared with that of the gods in ancient Greece. Walter Benjamin s theory of the relationship between aura and the dissemination of images is well known and influential in art discourses. He stated that in the age of mechanical reproduction, with the new found ability to be reproduced and instantly disseminated, works of art will lose their aura. However, when it comes to the issue of celebrities, a reverse theory can be suggested. In other words, the ubiquity of image can, in fact, help to create aura. Rex Bulter (2001, p.3) in his article about the Mona Lisa, A room of her own, states With their increased exposure and exhibition, he (Walter Benjamin) argued, they would lose their cult value. But, in fact in one of the strangest ironies of our culture terms of Benjamin s analysis must be reversed. Today, the work of art s visibility or reproduction does not necessarily lead to the decline of its aura but, in some cases, creates it. This is a theory that modern commercial aggressively adopts in promoting its products as the dissemination of images is regarded as an effective means of creating and marketing aura. Historically, the dissemination of images was a popular strategy to promote propaganda or dictatorial leadership. During Roman times, graven images were used as effective means to commemorate the success of war campaigns. Throughout history, emperors and dictators employed tactics in which their images were distributed as a way of persuading people of their status and power: Early leaders such as Julius Caesar asserted their dominion by stamping their likeness onto the coins of their empire. Later leaders had their pictures printed on banknotes. (Bates & Cleese 2001, p.202). In modern times, with the help of mass media equipped with effective means of distribution, images of celebrities permeated people s consciousness.
16 The ideal body The extent of the impact these images have on people s minds is considerable, most particularly upon the younger generation brought up surrounded by visual technology. One example is the powerful influence of images, which focus on the slim body as an ideal for women. In her book Unbearable Weight, Susan Bordo (1993, p.273) considers how popular images impose on us, especially women, expectations and desires relating to our bodies, which might not be achievable. In Open Your Heart to Me. As in virtually all rock videos, the female boy is offered to the viewer purely as a spectacle, an object of sight, a visual commodity to be consumed, Madonna s weight loss and dazzling shaping-up job make the spectacle of her body all the more compelling: we are riveted to her body, fascinated by it [ ] women, however, may also be gripped by the desire (very likely impossible to achieve) to become that perfect body. Recent trends show that people s desires for the perfect body tend to find practical solutions from cosmetic surgery. Therefore, in the case of women, it seems that the number of cosmetic surgery cases such as liposuction, facelifts or breast enlargement has been increasing every year. For example, in the US, where 250,000 women undergo breast augmentation surgery each year, the boob job is as ubiquitous as junk food (Maushart 2004, p.16). Recent TV programs such as Ultimate Transformations Live or Extreme Makeover demonstrate how far we can go with remodelling our bodies. It seems that such trends are not limited to a specific area. As in Australia and the United States, many women in Korea are also willing to undergo cosmetic surgery to make themselves look better. Considering Korea s traditional culture, which had long been under the strong influence of Confucianism (whereby people are not expected to hurt the bodies which they inherited from their ancestors), these trends show a considerable change in people s consciousness. In contemporary culture, this development doesn t seem to limited to women only. In the US, men comprise 14 percent of all cosmetic surgery patients (Maushart 2004, p.18). Global sales of male-grooming products will surge by 67% to 19.5 billion between now and 2008, estimates Euromonitor International, a market- research firm. (Liu 2005, p.50) This means that men also have become far more conscious of being seen and concerned about their appearance, traditionally regarded as being principally the preoccupation of women.
17 Such a remarkable change in men s attitude towards appearance can also be attributed to our increasingly visual environment. Along with this trend, male body images in the mass media are sighted more frequently than ever, although female body images still appear to dominate promotional media such as billboard or magazine advertising. Technology and The Simulated Body In relation to the question of body image in contemporary visual culture, another significant issue is the remarkable development of the simulated body. Such body images, which have become familiar to us from science fiction films or virtual reality computer games, have been produced based on highly advanced digital simulation technology. As time progresses, the body images of computer game characters, which used to have angular features, have become far more realistic. Some recent digital characters in films are so realistic that they are integrated convincingly with real actors. The important aspect of those simulated body images is that they are open to accommodating creative imagination, not just playing a role of faithful imitation, copies of reality, which can be seen as the property of conventional photographs. As Gerard Raulet (1991) pointed out, simulation actually creates rather than imitates. 5 This is because those images are produced based on digital computer imaging methods, the principle of which is quite different from that of the production of film based photographs. In these photographs, an image of reality is directly registered on light-sensitive chemical treated film (or plates as in earlier examples) by exposing it to light through the lens (or pin hole). For example, in the case of Aki, the photo-realistic computer generated heroine in the film, The Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within presents incredibly detailed human features such as naturallooking hair, liquid in the eyes, speckles, pores on the skin or the hairs on the arms. Although Aki looks like an image of a real person, the person doesn t exist. In other words, although the Aki has faithful reference points to human features, she is not the representation of a real person, but rather, a creation. This is the result of computer imaging technology, which allows not only imitation but also variation, modification or recreation of given features. 5 Gerard Raulet (1991, p.40) sees simulation as more than imitation noting The significance of simulation is missed if it is seen as imitation. Simulation does not imitate; it creates.
18 Therefore, it is possible to create images of a person who hasn t existed, but plausible copies without an original. In this light, such realistic computer generated characters can be seen as a symbolic embodiment of Baudrillard s hyper-reality in that those images have replaced reality, creating something more real than the real. The emergence of the simulated body is one example of the way in which today s culture challenges out conventional idea of the body, reminding us of the fact that as it has always done, technological change continues to take us to a new world. Contemporary Visual Culture and The Body s Segregation from The Mind The strong impact of these current visual environments on our consciousness leads us to a question: What is the body s place in establishing our sense of self under contemporary conditions? Where is the body placed? One explanation can be drawn from the term, voyeurism. The term is used with a sexual connotation meaning an interest in looking at sexual objects or the sexual activities of others, especially in secret, to achieve sexual gratification (Hornby & Cowie 1980). One characteristic of voyeurism is the priority given to the gaze or sight without the viewer s bodily involvement. The body s detachment from the sight as the case of voyeurism sums up well the contemporary visual conditions. Therefore, it is undeniable that today s visual environment, based on mass media armed with commercialism and technology, has created a voyeuristic situation in which the individual is likely to be exposed to a constant stream of images charged with sexual implications. Sitting on a couch without even moving yourself, you can see what is going on in the world through TV from Bill Clinton s affair with Monica Lewinsky to graphic details of American soldiers abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison, for example. A more recent apparatus, the internet also offers a similar set of conditions. Basically, the ubiquity of the image means that one s bodily involvement is not required for the business of knowing the world. Therefore, it can be said that increasingly the body is becoming absent from our sense of self, which comes from a trend in which the body is more and more segregated from mind under contemporary conditions.
19 Chapter Three THE FORM OF MY WORK My visual practice has developed and evolved through the process of exploring methodologies of how to address the issues discussed in previous chapter. These methodologies are used to engage with these issues through visual form. My work is intended to evoke contemporary human conditions where the conventional idea of the body is being challenged by our increasingly visual and image saturated environment, in particular, focusing on the question of the body in hyper-reality. It does so by playing with the way people come to perceive classical sculpture and statuary. It teases or disrupts the way of seeing the antique statuary through its merger with contemporary body images. I am attempting to create an ironic and theatrical stage initiated by a strategic disguise, which makes the viewer baffled and intrigued. This raises a question and leads the viewer to reconsider what they first perceived, leading them to perhaps think further about the meaning of the body in contemporary culture. In this chapter, I will address how the tool of the critical illusion/ambiguity stemming from my previous research, has been adapted into present practice and evolved into a newly adjusted device. In addition, what are the conceptual and visual components in my work will be described. Through the comparative analysis on other artist s practices, the nature of my work will be articulated. Conceptual and Visual Components Tactical Disguise as the Evolutionary Application of Critical Illusion/Ambiguity In my studio practice, there is an important conceptual strategy that I apply to the work: disguise/faking, in which the visual components pretend in order to create the atmosphere of designated things and place: classical sculptures and museums, for example. It has to be underlined that the idea of disguise has evolved from the key strategy in my MVA project, what I called critical illusion/ambiguity. To help understand the nature of my work, it is useful to examine briefly critical illusion/ambiguity. The tactic is primarily based on the method of simulating an object, in this instance, the book. However, as Gomes (2001) pointed out, it succeeded not because the sculptures close likeness to the referenced object, but because of the difference between them. That is, the sculpture is designed to be perceived as the book at first glance, and then later, with the viewer s close scrutiny, reveal its true nature as fake.
20 This also highlights an important fact of the sculpture; although it looks like a found-object, it is actually a carefully manufactured hand-made object, a simulation. This hand-made approach allows a more dextrous and seamless manipulation by playing with the formula of the book without exposing the trace of any forceful intervention. For example, the title text on the cover of the book sculpture appears to be natural rather than foreign. Through my present research using critical illusion/ambiguity as a strategic device, the visual components present, to some degree, similar internal features to the book sculptures. For example, statues in the present project can be compared to the book sculptures in terms of their pretence; they pretend to be classical statues. They are also hand-made objects that look like found-objects (antiquities). In relation to the statues pretence, they attempt to induce in the viewer a kind of perceptual illusion. To create such illusion, they concern people s familiar perception of specific things. Gombrich (1977, p.72) in his book Art and Illusion points out that stereotyped notions can lead to making mistakes. [ ] it was remarked by ancient critics that several famous artists of antiquity had made a strange mistake in the portrayal of horses: they had represented them with eyelashes on the lower lid, a feature which belongs to the human eye but not to that of a horse. The example shows how a familiar thing can affect our perception of others. It can be said that the statues in my work play with people s stereotyped notion of classical statues, often thought of as white marble sculptures with missing arms, legs, or even heads sometimes. Therefore, viewers of my work initially make an association with classical statues. However, the initial perception is soon disrupted. Unlike the book sculptures, which in most cases follow (simulate) only one mode, the book, the statues contain contemporary body images within their seemingly classical sculptural appearance. Therefore, the statues actually present themselves in the form of a merger or collision of two different modes, contemporary body images and classical sculpture. In effect, the statues dual nature tends to encourage the viewer s double take as a result of the ensuing ambiguity in his/her perception. For this reason, I d rather term this device tactical disguise in order to distinguish it from the critical illusion/ambiguity. This tactical disguise operates throughout my visual practice.
21 Classical Statues and Contemporary Body Images In my studio practice, classical statues are employed as a pivotal component in addressing the topic, the body in hyper-reality. To be precise, it may be more appropriate to define them within the mode of classical sculpture in the sense that the works are presented as hand made objects, which are pretending to be classical. Therefore, as described earlier, statues appear in the form of contemporary body images with classical sculpture s look. This idea, in which a contemporary body image and classical statue are brought together, came from an analogy between Baudrillard s critique of contemporary images and early Christianity s critical attitude of visual culture, which involved the prohibition of graven images (classical sculptures). Actually, we can find interesting parallels between the two: for example, the present era s obsession with celebrities and perfect body images, and the ancient Greek s admiration of the ideal body, expressed through classical statues as visual depictions of their Gods and Goddesses. This method of setting contemporary body images in the disguise of classical statues serves in two major respects: firstly, it created a critical distance that is useful in examining contemporary conditions by placing contemporary body images in the theatrical past; secondly, it draws ironic parallels between contemporary body images and classical statues by the juxtaposition of the two. Exhibition Site as Disrupted Museum As stated, statues in my work are presented to look like classical sculptures. Subsequently, the site of exhibition comes to resemble that of a museum where antiquities are displayed. However, what attempts to be a museum is not presented in its pure and authentic form but with a strategic mutation as in the case of the statues with their dual nature. As a result, under the viewer s close scrutiny, the overall appearance would draw an ambiguous perception. This is intended to remind the viewer of contemporary conditions where we often experience a sense of continual displacement in relation to a reproductive and endlessly circulating image culture. This attempt to create what may be called a displace or disrupted museum, can be seen as a way of examining and/or questioning not only the authenticity of the real in perception of images in contemporary society, but also the relation of the role of seeing and being seen.
22 Mirror The mirror plays an important role as one of visual components in my work. Firstly, the connotation of the mirror is to do with its reflective nature. Its illusory space beyond the reflecting surface creates what was thought in some cultures to be the next world. This was well explored in literature such as Alice in Wonderland. In my work the mirror carries with it the connotation of an image world, the world s double created by simulation. In other words, mirrors are used as a metaphor for contemporary visual imagery produced by mass media or visual technology. The importance of the mirror also lies in its unique property of allowing us to identify ourselves in a visual way. This property of the mirror is utilised as a way of getting the viewer engaged voluntarily. In my visual practice, I have chosen a method of simulating the mirror rather than employing real mirrors. In the process of making, by proceeding against what a mirror should be, modifying the generic mode of the mirror, what is supposed to be a reflective surface is primarily replaced by a photographic image. This is designed to tease or disrupt the viewer s perception. The mirror is placed in the position of an enigmatic object, an inquisitor that provokes the viewer to raise questions. An Analysis on My Visual Practice through a Comparison with Other Contemporary Art Works In the course of my research, I have come across other practitioners whose work shares some common characteristics with mine. In terms of research methodology, comparing my visual practice with others is valid as it makes my work rich and provides me with an opportunity to articulate some important features. Focusing on the two aspects as the effect of tactical disguise, the work of both Marc Quinn and Ricky Swallow appears to be closely related to mine. In my work, the tactical disguise draws ironic parallels between contemporary images and classical sculptures. Marc Quinn s exhibition was held at Mary Boone gallery in New York in According to Ebony (2004, pp ), the exhibition, titled The Complete Marbles, showed 11(sic) recent, life-size portrait statues of physically deformed individuals, (Fig 2) [ ] In an interview for the show s catalogue, the artist says that the work was inspired by visits to the British museum s galleries of ancient Greek and Roman statuary.
23 And indeed, at first glance, the New York Gallery s main room, lined with 10(sic) dramatically spot-lit, polished white marble statues resting on plinths, resembled a museum wing of Greco-Roman antiquities. Each of these glistening nude figures, whether standing or seated, seems to hold a classical pose. [ ] The subjects, however, are people Quinn has met, who have sustained mutilations caused by accidents, genetic defects or thalidomide. Quinn s exhibition and my 2003 work, Goddesses and Mirrors (Fig 3), have a considerable similarity in terms of their appearance and theme. Both play with the way people conceive classical sculptures, and each artist s statues were intentionally made to resemble ancient Greek and Roman statuary. They both approach the issue of the body ideal through the mediation of classical sculptural appearance, although mine is not confined to this topic. Quinn s subjects are those who are disfigured, while my subjects are media celebrities whose body images are portrayed as the contemporary ideal. This difference in subject matter clearly demonstrates the fact that, despite a similar theme and choice of medium, we are approaching our work with different strategies. This difference is found in the way each artist s statues are related to classical sculpture. Quinn s mutilated bodies with amputated arms or legs are suggested as an equation to ancient sculptures, the missing arms and legs representative of the originally perfect limbs of an ideal body. According to Nadelman (2004, p.116), Quinn stated that his works appear to be fragments but are, of course, portraits of whole people. Therefore, even if the viewer s second look may easily pick up the differences between Quinn s sculptures and the Greco-Roman sculptures, they have enough resemblance to the antiquities with which we are familiar. In my work, some of statues that appear with no arms or legs do not represent the mutilated body, but disguise or resemble classical sculptures. Quinn s intention is to refute the view that the disfigured people are incomplete and abnormal. He does this by overlapping their mutilated bodies with what we view as perfect antiquities. Quinn s work can be seen as a kind of political claim that suggests reactive and contradictory values to the obsession of contemporary society with a perfect body (driven by popular culture). However, my work puts its emphasis on highlighting and exposing constructed personas or ideologies promoted by mass media. In my work, I have overlapped images of celebrities and classical sculptures as depiction of gods and goddesses, to suggest that there are parallels between the two. Contemporary society s obsession with the perfect body and celebrity can be ironically compared to the ancient Greek s admiration of ideal body and their worship of their gods and goddesses.
24 Such an approach, where ideologies carried by contemporary body images are exposed through classical sculpture, is more prominent in my Sweet Body Series. In these works, fragmented body images used in advertising are transformed into the typical limbless classical sculptures. In this way, these works make an ironic suggestion of contemporary body images as modern versions of gods and goddesses, which are admired, but at the same time consumed. These works expose how body images are exploited in contemporary consumer culture by revealing the difference from what was, at a glance, perceived as classical sculpture. Ricky Swallow s work also functions as a form of tactical disguise, creating distance by placing contemporary images in the past tense. A good example of this is found in the film, The Planet of Apes. The last scene 6 highlights this method, in which the symbolic object, the Statue of Liberty, represents the far-off past to the viewer. The works in Swallow s exhibition, Future Tense are related to mine in that they play with time through ageing objects from the present. Paton (2004, p.34) describes this method; from 1999, he triggered a comedy of culture by smuggling age into objects from the present. The effect has extra bite when Swallow ages an object that is itself designed to stop or at leats brake the effects of time like an art museum. What he refers to her is Model Sanctuary (Overgrown), one of five sculptures in Future Tense. According to Paton, the work is a sculpture, which depicts the National Gallery of Victoria as a future version of itself, mimicking the architectural model hosted by the Gallery s foyer. Sanctuary is the model s grim twin, a bad dream of the gallery s future. Swallow remakes the building as a slime-streaked culture bunker, its moat dry, its sculptures rusting (ibid, p.38). Swallow remakes the Gallery from a future point of view by employing and intervening in the format of the architectural model. He makes a thing (the Gallery) from the present invade a form in this case, an architectural model that signifies a different time zone, and endows it with an imaginary narration from a future point of view. In my practice, I smuggle contemporary images into a mode of a different time zone, classical sculpture, and transform them into unfamiliar and distanced objects. In Swallow s Model sanctuary (Overgrown) the architectural model signifies the future, while classical sculpture in my work signifies the past. 6 In the last scene of the film, the remains of the Statue of Liberty turn up in front of Charlton Heston as the only survivor from a forced landing to a planet ruled by apes, and reveals that the planet is the earth. The film warns that the nuclear arms race could bring about possible catastrophe.
25 Among Swallow s other works in the exhibition, the work that comes closest to mine is Evolution (In Order of Appearance) (Fig 4). Swallow also applied to this work the notion of seeing from the future perspective, playing with time by adapting the format of archaeological museum. Paton (2004, p.38) states that what appears at first to be a text-book evolutionary sequence from jut jawed Cro-Magnon to high-browed modern human turns out to have been infiltrated by a Hollywood android. From Paton s description, the Hollywood android, Terminator invades the space of an archaeological museum and is presented as an artefact of the past. This is quite similar to my approach, where contemporary body images are presented in the disguise of classical sculpture as if they were things in the past. Swallow s setting makes the viewer see then the current event, Terminator, from a distance. In this light, Swallow s work makes a close analogy to my visual practice and validates my intentional use of the device of tactical disguise. However, it has to be underlined that, in my work, the transformation of contemporary images into classical sculptures is intended not only to bring the viewer to a critical distance, but also to draw ironic parallels between contemporary body images and classical sculptures.
26 Chapter Four DESCRIPTION OF MY WORK 1. Goddesses and Mirrors This work is about how body images in the media have an impact on our consciousness and perception of the body. Goddesses and Mirrors explores the question of the body as image by examining/underlining the way celebrities are portrayed by mass media. At the same time, this work also explores the body as a container of self by engaging the viewer through the use of photographic mirrors to create illusion. Through illusion, these mirrors prompt the viewer to question the relation between the body images in the media world and his/her own body exposed to those images. The work is composed of a series of statues accompanied by their own plinths and mirrors. The statues look similar to those ancient Greek marble sculptures representing gods or goddesses. The accompanying plinths are intended to help create the atmosphere of the museum. At first glance, the statues might resemble classical antiquities. However, a closer look reveals the fact that they are actually images of contemporary celebrities, celebrities who have become famous and popular through media exposure. Although they take the form of three- dimensional images that mimic traditional white marble statuary, it is anticipated that the viewer will still recognise the subjects because they were based on such popular and familiar images. They are sculptures made from images rather than from life. This kind of overlapping between modern celebrities and classical sculptures is intentional. The tactics of disguise in which statues are likely to be perceived as classical sculptures (here, the exhibition site temporarily resembles that of a museum), are deliberately used in order to address my philosophical pondering on the issue of the body in hyper-reality. In this case, images of celebrities are employed as they could anchor the issue effectively due to their frequent and ubiquitous presence in the media. By overlapping those two representational forms or, to put it another way, by appropriating the formality of one and grafting it to the other, the celebrities can be compared with those of goddesses of the Greco-Roma world. In this work, celebrities images are measured against the statues of the classical world s goddesses. Highlighting the issue of personas constructed by mass media. Mirrors, which correspond to each statue, are presented as a metaphor for mass media. Those mirrors also introduce the tactical disguise that is supposed to disturb the viewer s preoccupation and so trigger a question.
27 With half-closed eyes, what might look to be the reflection of those statues turns out to be actually photo images that mimic the reflection. The photographic image is a typical form of quasi-reality offered by mass media through which we experience the world. Through the distortion of their generic form, those mirrors represent mass media metaphorically and symbolically as a tool for reflecting reality in contemporary culture. Unlike a real mirror, the mirrors do not show the viewer the reflection of himself/herself, pointing to the absence of our bodies as spectators in contemporary media saturated reality. 2. Extreme Makeover Extreme Makeover (Fig 5) explores further the relationship between the body image in the media and the body as a consumer. The title of the work is extracted from a reality TV show. The nature of the program is highly relevant to my subject matter, which challenges the idea of the real and touches on the issue of appearance culture, people s obsession with the exterior of the body. The content of Extreme Makeover is this: lucky candidates, (who have inferior feelings about their appearance and so are prepared to take any risk for an upgraded appearance), are chosen to go through a package of makeover programs, which includes cosmetic surgery, gym courses, hairdressing, dental work, fashion clothing, and so on. After a two-month period of transformation, they reappear in front of their family, relatives and friends. The whole process is video taped and presented in a composed manner rather than relayed in real time, as was the case in Big Brother. This program is evidence of how far we have come in relation to our concept of the external appearance of the body. The body is no longer a given fate we are obliged to accept. Instead, it has become a consumer product that can be transformed as long as you can afford it. My work, Extreme Makeover is composed of three serial pieces. They are presented in an animated manner suggesting the process of transformation of the body as an act of consumption of the media image. The first piece shows a woman standing in front of a mirror containing the image of a celebrity. In the second one, the lower half of the woman s body dangles on a mirror suggesting her desperate attempt to achieve the ideal body. The third piece presents a mirror showing her transformed image and a plinth with no statue on top of it. This work questions how the body is related to identity in an age where the body is subject to consumption and manufacture.
28 3. Aspiration This work (Fig 6) can be seen as a male version of how the body image in the media has an impact on our consciousness. Today s appearance culture seems to leave no exception as to its influence not even men. Therefore, male body images as the role models are sighted more often than before. One of these is the well developed masculine body image. As an example of an idealised body for males, the image of a body builder can be seen as an extreme case and considered as a modern phenomenon. What originally started as a way of strengthening muscle power and health has evolved into a kind of extreme sport, which is obsessed with a muscular look more than anything else. In this work, a man of rather fragile appearance, standing in front of a mirror, which displays a body builder s image, reflects the image by taking the same pose. The contrast between the two humorously expresses the extent of pressure modern men experience in response to images present an ideal body. 4. In the Web of Mirrors A distinctive feature of contemporary culture is the presence of abundant body images. Whether we like it or not, it is difficult for modern men to avoid exposure to this proliferation of body images. In addition, our bodies have increasingly become subjected to the gaze of surveillance in terms of the increase in visual apparatuses such as security cameras, video cameras, even visually updated versions of the mobile phone. Therefore, to be exposed or to display your body, you don t necessarily have to participate in a reality show like Big Brother. We are likely to be monitored and seen by others regardless of our will. In the Web of Mirrors (Fig 7) highlighted such aspects of contemporary visual culture. It presents a modern young woman with a trendy hair style and costume, holding a mobile phone. Her awareness of being watched and her readiness to display her own image is indicated indirectly by the presence of a number of mirrors surrounding her, which display segmented images of her. 5. Unreal Body (Escape from the Mirror) This work (Fig 8) is designed to highlight how contemporary technology challenges our perception of reality.
29 It addresses more directly the idea of the simulated body, which has no reference to the real, and the idea of blurred boundaries between reality and image brought about by simulation. Gollum, a character from the film, The Lord of the Rings was given an appearance similar to the body of a human-being, but different, strange, even grotesque, and therefore fore suitable for a work of fantasy. It is a pure image product, one example of computer generated characters often appearing in recent films such as The Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Shrek, which have no direct reference to reality. Gollum looks so real that some viewers might be convinced that such as creature might exist in this world. Even an audience who has enough knowledge of how the film was made, is impressed by the realistic features the creature displays: appearance, facial expression and body movement. All effects of this simulation appear in a highly plausible reality with the help of photo-realistic images created by today s advanced computer technology. As we see in Gollum s case, today s simulation technology has reached the point where it is not confined to simply imitating the original, but creates its own reality. To address this, Gollum was chosen as a symbolic image representing the simulated body. In Unreal Body, the creature, which is supposed to exist only on a movie screen, appears to escape from the mirror as a metaphor of the image world. This suggests that, in terms of our perception of the world, we are living in an environment where the boundary between reality and image has become blurred. 6. Sweet Body Series This series of works has been produced in a similar context to Goddesses and Mirrors, where the subjects of each work were constructed from photographic images used in mass media. In particular, these works pay attention to cropped body images used for marketing products. Unlike Goddesses and Mirrors, in which each work was made based on images of celebrities, these headless figures show no identity and their fragmented bodies mimic antique classical sculptures with missing limbs. While Goddesses and Mirrors concerns constructed personas through well known body images, this series explores the anonymous body as a commodity in contemporary visual culture. In the case of Venus with a Mobile Phone, (Fig9-1), the female torso has its origin in an image from a mobile phone advertisement. The original image shows the back of a half naked female wearing blue jeans. There is a mobile phone in the back pocket.
30 This is typical of advertisements, in which female bodies are used for the promotion of products. The advertisement juxtaposes a slim and seductive female body with the product it promotes. In doing so, it provides would-be consumers with a fantasy where they may achieve the sexy look by possessing the product. Like many similar advertisements exploiting body images, this presents an ideology of ideal body through a constructed image. My statue, in which a contemporary advertising image is transformed into classical sculpture, creates an ironic comment by juxtaposing a classical, ideal body with its contemporary counterpart. This work suggests that the tradition of Venus, the female body ideal in the classical world, still continues in contemporary commercialised visual images. Everyday Apollo (Fig 9-2) shares the same method as Venus with a Mobile Phone in its use of an existing image. It makes an anonymous male body image its subject. The source of this work came from a marketing image on the package of a product. The original image shows a cropped photo image of well-toned, muscular and fit male body. The Initial perception, in which the work appears to be an antique male torso, at a glance, is twisted when a close look reveals that the statue is wearing men s underwear (with a company s logo engraved). Therefore, the disguised classical statue satirises the body image of a modern god seated in contemporary promotional media instead of the Pantheon. 7. In search of Russell Crowe It is this work that crystallises my studio practice in its attempt to visualise the research theme. Initially, In search of Russell Crowe relied primarily of the sculptural object. However, as the work progressed, its importance in my studio practice increased and prompted more experimental ideas. I began to incorporate other mediums, photographs and a video initiated by a staged performance. Accordingly, the work has become a bigger project than originally conceived. This inclusion of other mediums in my studio method has contributed to producing more innovative ideas, and brought the effect of increased coherence and integrity to the work. This project resulted in two individual works: The Excavation of the Hero and His Omnipresence. Although each may be read as part of a cumulative statement, each makes a self-contained work.
31 7.1 The Excavation of the Hero In this work, the previous disguise formula is employed to conjure up an authentic, plausible archaeological setting. A Hollywood star s images are transformed into Roman portraits and discovered in a (fake) excavation, then displayed as antiquities. The work poses layers of questions raised by the hyper-real presence of body double/image in contemporary culture: the original (body) and its copies, the relationship between the body and identity, celebrity image and aura idolatry, Hollywood and hyper-reality. The work takes the form of a video display, which shows a staged performance of excavation, in conjunction with multiple sculptural heads. They are presented together in the form of installation. The Symbolic excavation initiates the work. This excavation is videotaped performance, which involves a number of buried heads. The process of the performance is as follows: 1) A day before, a number of heads are buried with their heads partially exposed at a site on Main Beach at the Gold Coast. 2) On the next morning, I start digging out the buried pieces until all of them are thoroughly exposed. The whole process is videotaped. Main Beach was chosen as the site for this symbolic performance, as the Gold Coast is considered a symbol of popular glitz culture and as such a hyper-real place. With its surface culture and transitory nature as a site of tourism, it can be compared to television or cinema screens, which can breed the hyper-real body. In the same context, the head is understood as a dramatic metaphor for the hyper-real body where the flickering image on the screen is transformed into a tangible and solid entity. Here, simulation/image becomes reality. Therefore, the excavation is about discovering the hyper-real body. When the work excavation is used in an archaeological context, it means an activity where archaeologists carefully remove earth to uncover things buried and discover information about the past. In this work, the excavation/discovery of (fake) antiquities (which turn out to be images of a contemporary Hollywood star) is an attempt to draw a distanced and critical view of contemporary culture by placing it in past tense. It is to discover/reveal the truth about the postmodern moment. Within this installation, a group of heads is placed on the floor, occupying the centre of the room. They are lined up in a formation that reminds the viewer of the entombed warriors, a popular travelling exhibition of the terracotta soldiers excavated from Chinese emperor s tomb. At one corner of the room, a monitor screen displays the videotaped excavation mimicking archaeological museum practice. In this installation, a key component is the sculptural head. (Fig 10) The conceptual structure of this work is based on the head. Therefore, I will attempt to
32 describe what this work is about by articulating and analysing some important characteristics of the head. Firstly, the statue has a dual nature that leads to the viewer s perceptual double take. Like previous work, the statue appears to look like classical sculpture, in particular, the Roman portrait. The sculptural head is actually of the actor, Russell Crowe, star of the film, Gladiator. In this film, Crowe plays a Roman general, Maximus, and later, her becomes reduced to a gladiator and presents the typical image of a hero. Such a coincidental setting in the film makes it perfect for applying the disguise formula: a contemporary body image is transformed into classical sculpture. That is, the statue can have the look of a perfect Roman portrait of a gladiator, and of Russell Crowe at the same time. The disguise tactic, where a contemporary celebrity image appears to be classical sculpture, is intended to function in a seamless way through illusion and ambiguity. Secondly, the work is framing the face among body parts. The face is the most interesting part of the human body to look at. Hence, it tends to be deeply related to its owner s identity. However, in the case of the media celebrities, especially actors or actresses, we can t necessarily identify their images on the screen with their real selves, as they are personas created for the cinema. In fact, once the body takes the form of a representation, whether it is a photographic or electronic image, it tends to be unrelated to the original because it is free from the physical confinement of the body. In this light, it will be meaningless to try to identify the persona of the gladiator, Maximus, Russell Crowes s role in the film with the real Russell Crowe. This is an issue raised by the statue, which highlights the face. As we have seen earlier, there are different perceptions of the statue: the statue as a Roman portrait, or as a portrait of Russell Crowe. Through this perceptual duality of the statue, the work poses the question of the obscured and suspicious relationship between the body and identity in a contemporary imagesaturated and, as Denzin (1995) pertinently called it. Cinematic society. Thirdly, a noticeable feature of the head is its gigantic size. This is designed to address the relationship between the celebrity s facial image and idolatry. The idea of the larger than life size head stemmed from the experience of viewing a large cinema screen.
33 If the face is the most interesting part of human body, it is possible to relate so-called celebrities facial images with their fame. In that context, the theory that a Hollywood star s giant face projected on cinema screens can contribute to establishing their fame, is very convincing. Bates and Cleese (2001, p.211) analyse the effect of gigantic images of film actors faces. Firstly, it made the actors even more like stars than they were before by projecting their faces on such an awesome scale. It flattered their importance, and made a big impression literally as well as metaphorically on the minds of the mass movie going audience. Secondly, the huge close-ups were visually the equivalent of gazing at someone s face from a distance of about six inches. The only occasions on which people had previously encountered someone s features at such close range were highly intimate. So cinema close-ups created a close, personal bond between the members of the movie audience, and the famous star they so admired. As Bates has pointed out, the huge-sized faces have a big impact on people s psyche. The statue juxtaposes the worship of contemporary celebrities and ancient pagan idolatry by overlapping a contemporary Hollywood star s image upon a classical statue. Finally, another distinct feature of the work is that the larger than life size portrait appears in multiple. In this work, the saturating power created by the multiple is suggested as an ironic parallel between the Roman portrait and the contemporary celebrity image, the two elements merged in the sculpture. During Roman times, which the style of the head implies, portraits were on of favored art forms. 7 In their book, Classical Art, Beard and Henderson (2001, p.207) sate that It was an emphatically Roman, rather than Greek, drive to surround available living space with armies of abbreviated figures of prestige heads or busts [ ]. In particular, the portraits of rulers and emperors were present in great numbers. As explained earlier, this was the consequence of the idea that their graven images were an effective means of claiming their rule. For example, in the case of the emperor Augustus, recent count of his surviving heads, busts and full-length statues reached more than 200, and recent estimates of ancient production guess at 25,000 50,000 portraits in stone all told ( Beard and Henderson 2001, p.216). 7 Beard and Henderson (2001, p.207) offer two reasons for this: In part, this Roman enthusiasm for the head was the consequence of mass-marketing, which went hand in hand with the canonization of taste across the Mediterranean. It was also [ ] a by-product of autocratic power in the wake of Alexander and of the saturation of the world with portraits of successive rulers.
34 Likewise, contemporary celebrities images are characterised by their multiple presence. In this case, the sheer number of images is a product of the promotional culture, which sees the body as a commodity. These multiple heads conjure up a modern parody of Roman portraits, satirising contemporary visual culture. A critical point of this work is that in the installation, video mages are presented as archaeological facts with the support of solid evidence. The excavation screens as if this were truth. The work attempts to visualise the logic of hyper-reality, where simulation becomes reality. The body image from the film Gladiator leaps to reality in the past by being presented as archaeological evidence. The work provides parody of how what we call reality is established and perceived. 7.2 His Omnipresence This piece is composed of a number of photographs in which the sculpture head appears abruptly, in a range of locations, creating an eerie sense of displacement. The photo-images dramatise our hyper-real experience of the body in relation to today s expanded visual media and technology. When we see films, we are situated in no place. Whether we watch the films in Brisbane or in Seoul, it doesn t really matter. Once the silver screen starts flickering, we become one of the voyeurs. We lose out bodies. To be precise, we lose our sense of bodily connection with the place. And when the flickering image on the screen absorbs us thoroughly, the image becomes the site. Movie theatres are not only places where we experience such things. It is possible to be a part of such experiences wherever images are present and vigorously exercise their impact. Ever-changing technology (especially in relation to the development and popularisation of visual reproductive technology such as the digital camera, notebook computer, portable DVD, screen mobile phone and electronically operated billboards) has made it possible to reproduce images anywhere. In this work, the hyper-real experience is expressed in a dramatic and paradoxical manner as Russell Crowe s image transformed into a Roman portrait intervenes in actual places. The work highlights an uneasy relationship between representation and real space.
35 CONCLUSION This research began from the premise that the definition of the body has become uncertain in relation to the development of contemporary culture. I posed my thesis that the reason for our questioning of notions of the body lies within our increasingly visual culture characterised by pervasive and ubiquitous images. In this context, I asked the question: what does the body (image) mean in contemporary visual culture? Through this question, I analysed the role of the mirror (the primary form of reflective tool) and the body image reflected within, making an analogy with the mirror-nature of contemporary society. I drew a model for understanding of the question from Baudrillard s theory of hyperreality. This gave me the conceptual foundation for my visual practice. In his seminal essay, Baudrillard (cited in Armatage 1995) argues that images contaminate and deform the real and eventually replace it, creating hyper-reality. His critique of the image shares a close analogy with the Christian refutation of graven images in the early Middle Ages (which were seen as remnants of pagan religion). Representations of God were thus seen to lead to idolatry. Such an analogy prompted the conception of an idea in which the contemporary (body) image and classical sculpture were brought together. By combining the idea with the previous research tool of critical illusion/ambiguity, my concept of tactical disguise (in which two elements was merged into one sculpture) was born. This device operates in two major ways: firstly, it creates a critical distance that is useful in examining contemporary conditions by placing contemporary body images in past tense; and secondly, it draws comparative discourse between the contemporary (body) image and classical sculpture by the juxtaposition of the two. This strategy was applied in my visual practice, which explored various issues arising from the hyper-real presence of body images in contemporary culture. My visual practice was placed in the role of an instrument for the critique of contemporary culture. I was interested in how classical sculpture could go beyond the conventional readings of it, and be given a new meaning. The question was initially met by attempts to make the statues play with the viewer s perception through their dual nature. However, the attempts succeeded more in the later work, In search of Russell Crowe, where the sculptural object interplays with the mediums of photograph, video and performance. The involvement of other mediums brings an increasing coherence to the concept the work attempts to convey. It makes the readings of the work rich by making the sculptural object a part of the process and not just the end result.
36 In the meantime, the involvement of video taped performance in the work opens up the broader territory beyond my intended expression as it introduces a time factor that is very different from that involved in viewing static sculpture or photography. This development in the later period of research reflects the characteristics of studio based are research that needs to be understood as an open process. The video performance, in particular, invites further area for research and experimentation beyond the existing scope of the DVA project.
37 BIBLIOGRAPHY Armatage, K. 1995, The body-that-disappears-into-thin-air: Vera Frenkel s Video Art, in Mirror Machine: video and Identity, ed. J. Marchessault, YYZ Books & CRCII, Toronto, Ontario, pp Bates, B. & Cleese, J. 2001, The Human Face, BBC Worldwide Limited, London. Baudrillard, J. 1975, The Mirror of Production, Telos Press, St Louis. Baudrillard, J. 1981, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, Telos Press, St Louis. Baudrillard, J. 1993, Symbolic Exchange and Death, Sage Publications, London. Beard, M. & Henderson, J. 2001, Classical Art: from Greece to Rome, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Bordo, S. 1993, Unbearable Weight: feminism, western culture, and the body, University of California Press, Berkeley. Butler, R. 2001, A room of her own, The Courier Mail, 17 February, p.3. Debord, G. 1994, The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books, New York. Denzin, N. K. 1995, The Cinematic Society; The Voyeur s Gaze, Sage Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi. Ebony, D. 2004, Marc Quinn at Mary Boone, Art in America, September, pp Erjavec, A. 1999, Visual Culture, in Symbolic Imprints; Essays on Photography and Visual Culture, eds L. Bertelsen, R. Gade & M. Sandbye, Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, pp Gallup, G. G. 1982, Self-awareness and the emergence of mind in primates, American Journal of Primatology, vol. 2. pp
38 Goldberg, V. & Silberman, R. 1999, American photography: a century of images, Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Gombrich, E. H. 1977, Art and Illusion: a study in the psychology of pictorial representation (5 th ed.), Phaidon Press, Oxford. Gomes, M. 2001, (un) real: Sung-Kwon Park s tactical hallucinations, in Sung-Kwon Park: (un) real, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Hornby, A. S. & Cowie, A. P. 1980, Voyeur. In Oxford Advanced Learner s Dictionary of Current English. (3 rd ed.,). Oxford University Press, Oxford, p Is this the real life? 2001, Film Review. September, pp Jonas, H. 1966, The Phenomenon of Life. Towards a Philosophical Biology, Harper & Row, New York. Lewith, G. T. (n.d), The Conceptual Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture- Its Place in Western Medical Science. Retrieved: August 18, 2005, from Liu, L. 2005, Mirror, Mirror, Time, October 31, p.50. Maushart, S. 2004, Faking It, The Weekend Australian Magazine, Jan. 31 Feb. 1, pp Nadelman, C. 2004, Middle-Aged Gods and Giant Babies, ART News, December, p Newman, J.H. & Newman, L.S. 1978, The Mirror Book, Crown Publishers Inc, New York. Paoletti, J. 2004, Opus of Escess, Art in America, September, pp Paton, J. 2004, Ricky Swallow: Field Recordings, Craftsman House, Fishermans Bend, Vic.
39 Perry, N. 1998, Hyperreality and Global Culture, Routledge, London & New York. Raulet, G. 1991, The New Utopia, Telos, 87, p. 40. Ridgway, B. S. 1984, Roman copies of Greek Sculpture, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. Tiemersma, D. 1989, Body schema and body image: an interdisciplinary and philosophical study, Swets & Zeitlinger, Amsterdam. Walker, J. A. 1994, Art in the age of mass media, Westview Press, Boulder & San Francisco. Wernick, A. 1991, Promotional Culture: Advertising, ideology and symbolic expression, Sage Publications, London.
40 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Fig 1. See the real Mona-Lisa, 2000, mixed media. Fig 2. View of Mark Quinn s exhibition, The Complete Marbles (Ebony 2004, p.124) Fig 3. View of Sung-Kwon Park s exhibition, Goddesses and Mirrors, 2003 Fig 4. Ricky Swallow, Evolution (in Order of Appearance), 1999, cast resin (Paton 2004, p.40) Fig 5. Extreme Makeover, mixed media, 2004 Fig 6. Aspiration, mixed media, 2004 Fig 7. In the Web of Mirrors, mixed media, 2004 Fig 8. Unreal Body (escape from the Mirror), mixed media, 2004 Fig 9.1 Venus with a Mobile phone, plasticine, 2005 Fig 9.2 Everyday Apollo, DAS (modelling clay) and steel, 2005 Fig 10. A sculptural head in The Excavation of the Hero, plaster, 2005
41 Fig 1. See the real Mona-Lisa, mixed media,
42 Fig 2. View of Marc Quinn's exhibition. The Complete Marbles Fig 3. View of Sung-Kwon Park's exhibition. Goddesses ~1nd Mirrors, 2003 Fig 4. Ricky Swallow. Evolution (In Order ofappearance). 1999, cast resin, 37
43 Fig 5. E'(treme Makeover. mixed media Fig 6. Aspiration. mixed media Fig 7. In the Web ofmirrors. mixed media
44 Fig 8. Unrt'ifl Body (/;'scflpe from the Mirror), mixed medi;:t. :l004 Fig 9.l Venlls with;j Mobile phone. plastil'ine
45 Fig 9.2 Everyday Apollo. DAS (modeling clay) and steel Fig 10. A sculptural head in Tile Excavation of tile Hero. plaster
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