Objecrated by Hannah Poon

26 03 2012

Title

“Objecrated”, a visual art piece from the Dikaios production (Created in partial completion of ART 575: Arts in Communication and Social Commentary)

 

Medium

Mixed Media Sculpture: Maple wood, Plywood, Plaster bandages, hemp string and cotton/polyester fabric

Topic Abstract

“Objecrated” is a sculptural piece that explores the objectification of women and the relation that it has to sex exploitation and sex trafficking.  The piece features a crate that is missing two sides to reveal plaster casted body parts of a dismembered woman.  The feet of the woman are bound together by hemp string and tied to the top of the crate.  The feet dangle down above the torso and the hands.  The top half of the torso, the shoulder and breasts are placed lying chest up and falling out of the crate.  The hips and butt of the torso rests on the three colored fabrics on the bottom of the crate.  The three colors of fabric are black, red and white.  The hands are casted in semi-closed fists.  They are bound together by the hemp string and rest on the bottom of the crate next to the lower part of the torso.  The hands rest on the black fabric. 

Rationale

Issues around objectification, sex exploitation and sex trafficking have been on my mind since I joined Dikaios.  Since we are an art collective consisting of 10 artists that focuses on creating awareness and dialogue around issues of sex exploitation, our group has committed to continually learning about these issues.  We are currently performing a mixed media art production with the hopes to create dialogue around issues to do with sex trafficking.

The hope of our group is to make art that includes the various stages/roles represented in the redemptive transformation model.  The visual art element to our production is mostly prophetic and commentary in nature.  The pieces “confronts hypocrisy and exposes evil” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p. 119).  This includes my piece “Objecrated”.  This piece evokes critical awareness of objectification and how it relates to sex trafficking through the display of dismembered body parts in a crate.  It also asks the viewer to reflect on how they themselves may objectify people (view development to read more about the symbolism in this piece).

“Objecrated” is part of a larger production that we have created/are creating that includes other elements of the redemptive transformational model.  The larger production addresses issues around objectification, sex exploitation and sex trafficking.  We do this through the agape art of storytelling using theatre, dance, music and digital media (Agape art “trains, educates and empowers” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p. 119).   After each performance, we open the floor for a talk back for audience members to dialogue with us about the issues represented in our production.  We build community through dialogue as we “reflect, evaluate, remember, affirm, recognize and honor” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p.119)) stories to do with sex trafficking.  We also try to remember what Mattern says about music (art) and community work, “in addition to creating and reinforcing commonalities among different people, music also creates and reinforces differences” (1998, p. 21).  We encourage audience members to express their distaste in our work as well as the parts of our work that make them feel uncomfortable.  Granting audience members the opportunity to dialogue about such things enables us to bring back those who may feel that they cannot relate to our work.

Development

In the process of exploring topics of sex trafficking, exploitation and objectification, I thought about ways that women who are sex trafficked and exploited are reduced to body parts being transported back and forth from consumer to consumer.  The women are no longer humans but are objects of pleasure that can be taken out or bought when needed and discarded and resold when no longer pleasurable.  This led me to think of creating a piece that would create dialogue around how dismembering and disgusting objectification and sex trafficking is to a woman as a whole human being.

The choice of using plaster to cast body parts was due to the visual result of the plaster.  Plaster bandages has the capability to capture the body accurately while leaving a more rough and disheveled surface.  The white plaster gives the body parts a pristine look and the roughness of the surface once dried give the body parts an eerie presence.  Since plaster is used in casts for broken bones, using this medium insinuates the idea that this body has been broken.  It also causes the viewer to wonder about the body that the pieces were casted from.  What happened to this woman?  Where did she go?  What happened to her body?

The choice to display the body in an open wooden crate has to do with the function of crates.  Crates are for shipping, transporting and storing items.  The use of a crate to display the body pieces symbolizes the disposability of these women.  They can be shipped around, sold, resold, stored, used, and discarded.  The body pieces are resting on three colors of fabric that flow out of the box.  These colors represent the death of the humanity of these women (red), the darkness and abuse that they experience (black), and the hope for justice (white).  The hands and feet are bound with hemp string.  Hemp was used for its strength symbolizing the power of the bondage over these women, making freedom a difficult reality.  However string was used over rope for two reasons.  The first is an aesthetic choice: hemp rope would be too bulky and cover too much of the hands and feet.  The second reason is how the string symbolizes the complexity and the hidden nature of the problem.  Since the string is thinner than rope, it can be wrapped around the body pieces more times than rope (with the body pieces still being recognizable).  The multiple times the string is wrapped around the body pieces signify the complexity of issues around objectification and sex trafficking.  It also symbolizes the hidden nature of these issues, as the viewer must look a little closer to see that it is hemp string.

The choice to suspend the feet over the rest of the body parts is to communicate the desperation for urgent response to this issue.  The feet of this woman has not only been bound, but they have been removed from the rest of her body parts so that she cannot run.  She is no longer free.  They are dangled over her, like her freedom.  Something that is almost but not quite attainable.  The top half of the torso is laid chest up balancing on the bottom half of the torso so that it looks like she is falling out of the crate.  The symbolism in that is the fatigue that the woman is feeling, she no longer has it in her to fight for her freedom.  The bound hands are placed on the black fabric to signify the inability to even use her hands to grope through the darkness of the situation.

Intended audience and placement 

This piece will be entered into the Dikaios collection.  Currently Dikaios is running their 1-hour mixed media performance (which includes digital media, music, theatre and dance) at various locations around the city of Calgary.  We have performed at a homeless shelter, creating dialogue about the issues amongst homeless citizens and social workers.  Our next show partners with DJD dance studios and will be reaching a demographic of dancers and dance spectators.  Our final show will be at the Art college and will feature all the visual art work that has been part of the Dikaios collection.  The intended audience for this piece is therefore quite large in scope.   The hope is to create awareness, but more importantly to foster dialogue and critical thinking.

Challenges

There were a few challenges that I faced in the process of constructing and sculpting this piece.  First of all, it can be challenging to cast your own body parts.  The torso was not a problem as I had access to a mannequin that I used.  Casting my own hands and feet however, was difficult.  It was hard to stay still when I had to move my hand or foot to get the plaster bandage on smoothly.  The movement of my limbs would result in the plaster bandages not sticking as well or cracking.  I had to find objects to balance my foot or hand on so that I could ensure that it would stay still in a position that I could plaster easily.  Another challenge was plastering in such a way that the removal of the cast would not ruin the cast.  I applied a generous amount of Vaseline to help the plaster not stick to my skin and hairs.  I also had to plaster more generally so I lost some of the details of the hands and feet, for example I would plaster over parts of my fingers/toes instead of going in between and around each individual finger/toe.

The next challenge had to do with suspending and placing the body pieces into the crate. When measuring for the dimensions of the crate, I held up the pieces of the torso while a friend measured.  Though we had a measurement, it was an estimate as to how the pieces would be placed and displayed in the crate.   When the crate was completed, a challenge that presented itself was how to place the pieces and how to suspend the ones that could not just sit on the bottom of the crate.  I asked my friend to hold it in various places in the crate while I stepped back and looked at the placement.

The last challenge I faced had to do with the crate and the decision to construct it without two sides.  A friend who is familiar with construction and woodworking suggested using a thinner piece of wood to hold up the third corner to maintain some of the crate’s strength and structural integrity.  I had wanted to have more light and space to see the body pieces inside the crate.

References:

Corbitt, J.N. & Nix-Early, V. (2003). Taking it to the Streets: using the arts to transform your community. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Mattern, M. (1998).  Acting in Concert: Music, Community and Political Action.  News Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

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