The body + lens: shrink, wax, purge, bleach

Payne, T 2016, The body + lens: shrink, wax, purge, bleach, Masters by Research, Art, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

Title The body + lens: shrink, wax, purge, bleach
Author(s) Payne, T
Year 2016
Abstract This studio-led research project investigated the relationship of women’s embodiment to the lens3 of gendered advertising and a range of new products designed as aids to bodily ‘improvement’. These cosmetic rituals that I define as ‘body transformation practices’ involve products such as body-contour wear (SPANX), and processes such as Brazilian waxing, anal bleaching, salt-water cleansing, and fake tanning. The project aimed to better understand how these body practices have reconfigured the social construction of female gender.
The practices are grouped together by their mutually reinforcing interaction with gendered advertising. I identified how this advertising itself has developed new platforms for consumer interaction and has reached a deep saturation point in everyday life. A kind of feedback loop has been generated between the lens and the body: images of the ‘Glossy Magazine Girl’ – i.e. preternaturally thin, hairless, and unblemished by shades darker than pink – appear with more frequency in women’s everyday life. More women expend more ‘woman-hours’ to attain to this Glossy Magazine Girl, which becomes the norm. In turn, the proliferation of these imitational practices effectively naturalizes their reconfiguration of the female body4. The research output of the project was a series of video and photographic works in the genre of self-portraiture. These works attempt to critique new norms of embodiment emerging through these practices by a parodic approach to the cosmetic rituals themselves experienced by the researcher. This ‘carnal’ method of research is one that embodies the researcher in the social practices being studied, in this case: cosmetic rituals. This research method produced results not available to purely observational research. My studio-led research reveals the intractable – and comic – ‘failures’ in the face of the demands placed on the everyday performance of gender. In doing so, it turns these failures to affirmation, as well as presenting a critique of the gender norm these practices construct.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Art
Subjects Lens-based Practice
Fine Arts (incl. Sculpture and Painting)
Performance and Installation Art
Keyword(s) Photography
Feminist art
Carnal sociology
Commodity fetishism
Video art
The Male Gaze
Gender performance
Cosmetic rituals
Para-social interaction theory
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Created: Fri, 09 Sep 2016, 09:59:48 EST by Keely Chapman
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