Thursday, 5 May 2011

Altered Barbie gallery

I came across this exibition that took place in America a few years back but it really expresses similar opinions to me about the influences in which barbie dolls have on others.

Altered Barbie
Art 94124 Gallery (3rd St.)
August 10, 2008
Notes and Photos by Edward Paik

Barbie, Barbie, Barbie. Little girls dream of growing up to fit your flawless figure; women buy silicon implants to bear your perky plastic bust.

But the artists at the "Altered Barbie" exhibit are taking one for team womankind and mangling that hourglass bod to suit their purposes for a change. They've had enough of a doll calling the shots.

Mutilated, burned, coated, x-rayed, dressed, undressed, encased in wax, torn, broken or bent to simulate sex, more than 150 of Mattel’s 49-year-old plastic bombshells were altered for the sixth year running.

“People realize she’s an icon whether they like it or not,” says Julie Anderson, co-curator of the exhibit here at Art 94124 Gallery. And with a theme of recyclable and reusable materials, used to recreate anatomically incorrect incarnations, Barbie is the focus of celebration: her body a canvas for culture or satire at the mercy of almost 70 artists. “Altering her is about making her more real.”

There are dolls, photographs, paintings, performances, poems, music and films in reverence to the pint-sized fashionista. Some works are simple dress-ups in custom clothing, suited to otherworldly themes, sexual fetishes or just style. The rest are a bit stranger. No word on how Ken would have responded to LaVonne Sallee’s “Z-Warrior Barbie in Battle with an Iguana,” where the male doll’s fictional girlfriend lies topless beneath the beast.

“Difficult Birth,” by Tanya Lin Jaffe, is a real (and lit) x-ray of one Barbie with another coming out headfirst to join her newborn peers after delivery. Beneath a shrine of 21 decapitated doll heads and 19 Barbies plays Susan Stern’s 1998 documentary “Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour,” which explains how the toy was inspired from the lack of mature dolls.

“It’s almost like a cult activity,” observes Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator speaking on film of Barbie cultural role since then. “It’s real.”

And boy has the plastic toy has permeated into America’s image of beauty.

“Revealed” is a three-piece series of photos by Aftan Hernandez, where two black and white images of women -- from neck down to waist -- reveal curves in a women’s body missing in the upside-down triangular cavity of a Barbie. The contrast is a reality check -- the icon of beauty doesn’t eat!

“The concept of altering Barbies has been established,” says Anderson. In it’s sixth year, Anderson, who is also a contributing artist, has noticed the evolving perspective from her peers who participate in the exhibition. “I’m not getting a lot of excitement stabbing the Barbies, or making pornographic [scenes],” she added. “But when you put thought into her she comes back as art, as identity of the artist or the world outside.”

Barbie has become thought provoking. Perhaps it explains Melissa Chow’s 2007 photographs, “Put That Down, That Shit’s Expensive,” of the Barbie inhaling fumes of costly oil. Perhaps it explains the five Barbies hanging on the wall, encased in wooden coffins, as part of Hernandez’s “Death Of The Impossible.”

The annual exhibition does point out that aficionados of the plastic beauty are abundant - as almost 200 people come to the gallery each day, according to Anderson. “The cause for Barbie goes on.”

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