Notes on “The Body In Contemporary Art”

Melanie Manchot’s (p.18) photographs of her naked mother force us to challenge our perceptions of youth as a physical ideal (Look up John Coplans too) – compare the two. Which is more acceptable? Which is more appealing? Is the older nude male more attractive than the older nude female?


Sonia Khurana Bird 2000 (p.25) Video piece where she places herself on a podium and attempts to fly – absurdist piece that parodies, with the use of a non-idealised female form, the act of objectifying the female (placing her upon a pedestal)
Dorota Sadovska Corporalities 2003 (p.25) reduces the breasts from a form of sexual objectification to mere pieces of malleable skin – querying why these have been sexualised where other body parts are harmless. Is it possible to do the same with the male member? To question why it is such a taboo and frightening body part with the use of humour or some-such?
Übermensch” – I like this term (Hyper-man; Hyper masculinity)
Gilbert & George (p.26) – parody the male as Adonis through images in the style of stain-glass windows. Also using piss, spit, shit & sperm as background to bring our attention to the things that are also considered a taboo subject. The use of stain-glass with it’s religious connotations also poke fun at organised religion and it’s barring of homosexuality.
“The anti-spectacular body, presented in all it’s glorious mundanity, is meaningful in a way that the idealised body could never be.” O’Reilly (p.28)
“…capacity of photography to fictionalise” O’Reilly (p.34)
Katy Grannan 2000 (p.36) inviting ordinary people to pose nude she highlights the artifice in the ‘Art’ nude genre (and classical photography & painting nudes) as the sitters pose themselves in what they consider an artistic pose to be. Grannan’s framing, lighting and composition then highlight their awkwardness.
Leigh Bowery’s outrageous characterisations as a reaction to Thatcher’s hyper-conservatism and section 28 which forbade the promotion of homosexuality (possibly that HIV positive people were supposed to be hidden away as mentioned by O’Reilly) (p.76) due to costumes he was both invisible yet highly recognisable at the same time..both conforming to and as a reaction to Thatcher’s wish that the homosexual (and AIDS) problem would go back to being invisible.
” ‘the personal is political’ ..encapsulates the potential for the individual to represent…wider issues” O’Reilly (p.79)
Katarzyna Kozyra Men’s Bathhouse, 1999 (P.81) smuggled herself disguised as a male. She filmed in a Budapest bathhouse – presumably a heterosexual one as a gay bathhouse would have given entirely different results. But as O’Reilly points out this is only something a female artist could do…had a male artists done the same there would have been outrage if not criminal prosecution; another example of the gender differentiation and the male as a threatening species
Bobby Baker (p.87) “..parodies of ‘the average’ middle-aged woman”
Catherin Opie (p.89) “…a sense of self is constructed”
Sunil Gupta A Time To Love 2004 (p.90) “employs fragmentation to withhold the sitter’s identities”
The act of observation changed the thing being observed & the observer is at once both insider & outsider
Das Unheimlich (p.157)
Look up Mike Kelly’s curatorial project The Uncanny (p.162)
“requires that society should constantly recalibrate its ethical codes” O’Reilly (p.176)
Felix Gonzales-Torres Untitled 1991 (p.186) – indentations and wrinkles of an empty bed to signify all those lost to AIDS
“so that the artist, artwork and viewer together negotiate an intellectual and sensory experience” O’Reilly (p.193)

Culled from – The Body In Contemporary Art – Sally O’Reilly (London; Thames & Hudson, 2009)

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