Your Image is Overrated
I am very skeptical of the mass media; among others I do not watch TV. This medium, among others, subsumes the spectator with a variety of images and messages embedded in these images - messages that convey a sense of desire, of fetishized necessity. I feel that these messages distort reality, that they are of an abstract realm that can never be achieved but whose ideal is conveyed to seem achievable. TV advertisements is not the only one to blame; modern fashion advertisements are notable for doing so as well, perhaps to an even greater degree.
However, fashion photography is particularly interesting in this regard due to how it conveys the message - through a form less a document and more of a work of fine art. It is both picture and document - a document that showcases fetishized items, and a picture by virtue of the means to the end - to create a desirable quality of fantasy. Most fashion photographs, placed in the context of the media, suggests that our desires can be possessed through consumption. But placed in the context of an art book, or an art gallery, the meaning changes - they cease to be about materialistic desire, and more about beauty of the form, the expression of the subject(s), a medium of conveying an ineffable sense of magnetism. Fashion photographs have consciously become works of art, blurring the median between fine art and media.
On the one hand, in the case of fashion photography, this blurred distinction has been evident since the heydey of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. On the other hand, this phenomenon has been an ongoing trend in the production of fashion; case-in-point, the collaboration between Marc Jacobs and Takashi Murakami in 2003, and with Richard Prince in 2005. This blurred distinction is the template of expression for this project.
In this project, my objective was to use fashion photography as a platform for subversion, for détournement of the image. Taking inspiration from the French photographer Guy Bourdin, I embedded an image that conveys a stark sense of feminine desire and magnetism - but an image that replaces the image of the individual. To say, in this context, that "your image is overrated' takes direct criticism of the preeminence our advanced society accords to the image of self. Building off Brecht and Enzensberger, the aim of using media as an apparatus of communication
The political act is not the statement or the image-making, but rather the act of installation of the image. While posting late into the evening, I could not stop thinking of the controversy that certain images would stir, and of the implications. Much like fashion photographs themselves, deliberately placing these images in particular conxtexs - in a fashion spread, in a billboard, in a frame in an art gallery -articulates certain values created by the individual, thereby changing the meaning and the implications of the image itself. The act makes the statement. But the statement should make the individual question one's self, question the validity of the act and of the statement. As Benjamin said with regards to Brecht, "it is not private thinking but...the art of thinking in other people's heads, that is decisive"(Benjamin 73).