1 jan 2003

Vanessa Beecroft

performance and image

The questions in Beecroft's works always circle round feminine identity and how women function as a centre of attention and admiration. This can put one in mind of the voyeuristic mechanisms of fashion photography. Here art, self and gender image are brought together.

The New York-based artist posits an art that obscures the idea of set media.

Beecroft's installations consist of groups of young women. Like a child playing with its dolls, she dresses them in uniform underwear, gives them similar wigs and stations them in the exhibition space. There they remain, almost motionless, silent and serious, to be looked at as if they were a picture. The modified underclothing which they wear creates a feeling of alienation and strangeness rather than eroticism.

The artist focuses on the act of looking.

In connection with her performances she has video recordings made and photographs taken. Afterwards this documentation serves first and foremost as a record of the exhibitions, but slides, cibachromes and polaroid photographs also constitute individual works of art.

By designating the human body as a museum piece, Beecroft subverts photography, painting, sculpture, and even video art. She undermines the power of the stage, calling the narrative force of language into question simply by eliminating it.

With dadaist flare, Beecroft uses humanity as a function, not only a function of itself and society, but of art as well. If the toothbrush, ostensibly a tool for one task, can enter the museum, why can’t a human expertly trained for one operation enter as well?

Ultimately, it is the viewer whose existence becomes scrutinized. For how do we, lolling around with our hands in our pockets, act the role of the engaged person? Beecroft suggests that we are just as programmed as those ever-posing models.