Hannah Cheng, Kamil Faour, and I worked together in the creation of an installation based on a social justice issue that we considered key nowadays. We decided to do it about the standards that society puts to individuals in order to be considered and referred to as “normal.” With this topic as our umbrella term, we each had the opportunity to explore a part of this oppression. Hannah researched and created pieces related to the way we use language, and how this affects the way we perceive ourselves and those around us. Kamil on the other hand, focused on how we have a standard of how our body should look (as a Barbie for example), and how that is an abnormal and unhealthy goal to have. I focused on how this affects people with physical disabilities, and how society needs to move towards a mentality that accepts and celebrates different body images.
The installation consisted of three prints in the center (which were part of the body image section), two sculptures of language networks framing the photographs, and two sculptures for the disability section located below the sculptures of the network.
For the “Myth of the Ideal Body” section, Kamil created three prints. The first one is what he called “The Anatomical Barbie.” This print has a Barbie in the center, and on top of the photograph has written on top phrases of what would happen if someone looked like a Barbie in real life. One of the phrases is: “Barbie’s legs are 50% longer than her arms, they are also extremely thin. The average is 20% longer.” The print right next to that one is a collage made out of women’s parts that would not be considered “normal” or conventionally beautiful such as a face of a woman with vitiligo, or legs with cellulitis. The third print is of another Barbie, but in this case, she is crippled; she felt because her body could not sustain her standing upright. In this print, we can also find some statistics and facts of how women feel about their body such as: “53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies.”
For the “Language Perpetuation, a network” section, Hannah created two networks that were made out of wire and red string. The sculptures hanged from the ceiling as to represent how language misuse is all around us. The sculpture next to the first Barbie (the one that is standing up), had negative words that society utilizes to describe individuals that do not look like the standard. Some of the words used were crazy, cow, and cripple. In the second sculpture, we find human and equal, which represent what we aim for.
These sculptures were right above the “Disability ≠ Incapability” section where the audience could observe two small sculptures made out of silver wire, recycling materials (such as paper, and plastic). As was the case with the section on “Language Perpetuation, a Network,” one of the sculptures represented the negative way people perceive individuals with disabilities, and the other one the positive perception some have of the same population. Each sculpture had abstract figures made out of wire, which represented the people, and had a base made out of drawings of how individuals perceive them (in the one on the left is only wheelchairs, and on the right is drawings of people with disabilities having a productive and active life). The sculpture with the negative connotation has different materials tangled in the wire to represent the barriers that those individuals have in society to be considered “normal” such as social media.
Every section seemed to leave a door open for change. Society puts standards and makes us believe we need to achieve them. With our installation, we desire to become part of a moment of people that support those that are not traditionally considered to follow beauty norms and to encourage them to be themselves.
- Cooper Hewitt Museum Visit: as a group, we visited the museum, where we observed and analyzed the permanent exhibition as well as the one on Access + Ability. We took notes on what type of art displays we found interesting to get inspiration for our installation.
- Brainstorming: we spent great amounts of time in this step. First, we each came with issues of oppression that interested us. Some of the topics we came up with were: oppression against security guards, against a community that speaks a different language from the one that is talked in the country (such as people in Chinatown in New York City), and the way media oppresses the way individuals think of their body image.
- Security Guards Idea Research: we began working with the idea of the security guards, and interviewed five security guards that worked at the New School. From their responses, we learned that the situation in the New School was not as urgent as we thought. Security guards felt they worked in a good environment.
- More thinking: we continued brainstorming and came up with the final idea we decided to do. We divided the work into three sections. Each person in the group was in charge with a part of the exhibition.
- Research: we did extensive research both in class and separately. When separate, each person worked on the section they were in charge.
- Making the pieces: while Kamil worked in his prints, Hannah worked in her sculptures, and I worked in my sculptures. We got feedback from each other while doing it.
- In class feedback from Prof. Ron Caldwell and Prof. Charlotte Schulz: they told us to:
7.a. Make digital the print of the crippled woman
7.b. To make the language sculpture hang from the ceiling. They also recommended to have the words inside the network and to make two sculptures rather than one.
7.c. To create another sculpture for the section about the oppression of people with disabilities and to have that sculpture be the positive result of how we should observe these individuals.
7.d. Change the font and the size of the letters used in the text panels.
- Made changes and critique: after talking with our Professors, we edited what had to be done, and prepared to have everything ready for the final critique.
Sources for “The Myth of the Ideal Body”:
Sources for Language Perpetuation – a network:
Sources for Disability ≠ Incapability:
Of the Final Installation:
Of the Process: