The ugly construction of beauty

Topping, Jane ORCID logo ORCID: (2013) The ugly construction of beauty. In: MOD ART '13 (Modern Art Conference on Beauty and Ugliness), 28 November 2013, Istanbul, Turkey.

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In film, a woman’s desire for success is often visually presented via an adherence to structured acts of so-called beautification. These performances, or as Judith Butler would have, ‘acts of the flesh’, often result in frustration, failure and the re-positioning of the female as societally submissive. The gestures which are performed in order to achieve a stereotyped vision of beauty are repetitive, boring and often seemingly painful or destructive to the individual performing them. They may even result in death or in a zombie-like form of living death. In Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950), the character of Norma Desmond is trapped between reality and the myth of her own stardom. She seeks freedom through an elaborate set of rituals, designed to regenerate her youth and with it her fame. These acts, however, are revealed to be narcissistic and ultimately fatal. In Desperately Seeking Susan (Seidelman, 1985), scenes of a domestic feminine identity are used to accentuate the difference between the 2 female protagonists, one a street-wise extrovert, the other a demure housewife. This paper will analyse four of my short films (originally made for the solo exhibition The Women, Patricia Fleming Projects, U.K., 2013) which manipulate found footage in order to reveal the ugliness at the heart of rituals of beautification, both physically and psychologically. Interrogating Butler’s assertion that we are always in drag, my practice operates to place the viewer ‘back stage’, revealing the self-conscious staging of a feminine identity. Dara Birnbaum’s use of repetition as a device to create anxiety is appropriated in the context of my work, to reveal otherwise unnoticed moments of boredom, even death, within the performance of feminine gestures of beauty.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Academic Departments > Institute of Arts (IOA) > Fine Arts
Depositing User: Jane Topping
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2016 15:05
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 11:46


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