By Qing Ma
Kate Cooper is one of the innovative artists who work on body images. She isn’t an artist working in a solitary garret with chaos and materials. Mostly, she likes to work in an artist collective. In her work RIGGED, she made collaboration with people working with digital images and film. When watching her works, you will rethink both of the possibilities and the restraints.
Sometimes, It makes think that we should try to introduce contemporary making, production, and technology into artworks today. What are the new possibilities of making art in 21 century, what is the latest technology, what images can be along with technology developing?
Her installation at KW, RIGGED, was based around a CGI piece playing with ideas about the body as a commercial good, the digital representation of the body, and the life and agency of the image in modern culture. RIGGED was shown in large scale in the gallery, which can spill out the impact as soon as being watched.
RIGGED’s digital aesthetic crossed over between art and the gloss of CGI commercialism. Cooper explains this piece of work in an interview: “What possibilities for new relationships to images and new forms of agency can we invent and produce? Who owns these images and who is given permission to use them—also, how are they related to ideas of class and gender?” It also about the long history of women being used as a “digital prototype, the test card within digital imagery.”
Her work makes me think more about our connection with our body.
Marilyn Minter is a contemporary artist who works on the mainstream notions of beauty. Minter is best known for her sexually loaded and photo-realistically-rendered paintings of the female body that are cropped and magnified to the point of near abstraction. At the first glance of her works, I thought they must be some kind of large format photography. But, Actually, They are all paintings. If you close to these remarkable paintings, you will notice the incredible details of them.
The ongoing theme in Minter’s work is fashion and glamour, and she combines women’s bodies, clothing, shoes, and jewelry all together in artworks.
Sometimes, it makes me feel so uncomfortable to stare at her works. But it’s hard to peel my eyes away from those images because they are so powerful as a metaphor for beauty culture.
In terms of beauty culture, one of the most famous artists is Lauren Greenfield. In her book<Girl Culture>, she used the documentary photography to record the secret world of girls’ social life and private rituals. In that book, Greenfield turns her lens on American girls from different professions, includes models, actress, cheerleaders and strippers. So that we could finally get to know how women influenced by American popular culture, and watched by the whole society.
In another project of her, she goes deep into the live surgery. Those works really amazed me by its visual impact. As a photographer, I know how hard it is to get the permission of shooting some private scenario.
Cindy Sherman is an American photographer whose works often linked to gender and identity. What made Sherman approached the public line of sight is her famous self-portraits called Untitled Film Still. In that project, She uses her own body to play different roles by changing different costumes and poses.
I love the idea of questioning gender and identity through shooting the same person, which turns the serious topic into a more amusing and effective format. Also, back to 1970s, her works were inspired by Hollywood films, and then till now her current works still talk about present life. Always working with the contemporary issues is another feature of her art.
For the topic of body and beauty images, I find a series of the video called <Beyond Beauty With Grace Neutral>. Grace Neutral as a tattoo artist also the interviewer of this program, traveled to Brazil and South Korea to explore how people treat their body and how young generation fights for their belief in beauty.
The beauty industry was dredged deeper in another video <plastic surgery: the cost of beauty>. In this video, the interviewer had the opportunity to enter different clinics in South Korea and got to know some girls who took plastic surgeries. The most impressive thing is that we can watch the real operative processes in the video. Listening the experiences of those girls and seeing how they get through all the inner struggles makes it possible to be keenly aware of their pain and think about beauty in a serious way.