This work operates from concerns regarding pernicious tropes of feminine display as a corollary of social media. I offer different presentations within this body of work which may appear disparate in process and appearance, however each piece represents a node in a unified critique; one that polemically challenges notions of agency surrounding these representations of femininity.
One such trope is the ‘Hot Babe’. She is a gendered concept and objective subjectivity, appearing at the market’s core. As artist Hannah Black noted, ‘once upon a time, only the professional Hot Babe adorned all major media outlets; now social media makes everyone a Hot Babe, should they be willing.’ Capitalism mobilizing women and youth (and their predisposition to seduction and consumption) into the sphere of production, meant all erotic attachments to this desire are filtered through these figures. The work therefore attempts to reveal and question the social and economic constructs of beauty, taste and power.
Rather than a total rejection of the feminine, and in an effort to unravel the reification of female bodies under consumer capitalism and painting’s history, as a young female artist, I paint my own image parodying the ‘Hot Babe’ trope; inserting myself inside this process of reification to weaponise it through ridicule and inauthenticity. It is important that the excessive make up and its implied labour is evident within the painting to delineate the labour that women put into performing these standards.
In order to build social and financial capital, and in sensing she should be in touch with her seductive potential and akin to a valorized commodity, the young girl vacates self in order to direct her image and body in an effort to deliver the standards demanded by the digital milieu. Tiqquin poeticized this as ‘a refrigerated consciousness living in exile in a plasticized body.’ The materiality of the medium conveys the luminosity and plasticity of the commodity/digital skin, which now extends to the plasticity of skin through young girls pursuing synthetic augmentation and fillers to become attractive. The smoothness of the erotic areas points to the sexual impotence of the ‘Hot Babe’. I employ trompe l'oeil and yet the mouth cannot be penetrated and the doll cannot be handled.
Social media’s filter technologies merged the commodity aesthetic of cuteness with the vacancy of the selfie zeitgeist. These technologies subject the face to a cute schema by enlarging the eyes and shrinking the mouth to orifice size. Innocence, and affective ‘cute’ amounts to a complex mixture of feelings toward passive objects, but ultimately mediated by gender, sexuality, sadism and desire. Exaggerated vacancy & passivity becomes the eroticisation of powerlessness. In aligning one’s body with the commodity aesthetic of cute, or offering a vacant countenance, young women consents to a type of objectification ensnarled in submission.