I am interested in the media, celebrity and its relationship with the ordinary. Through my practice I attempt to de-bunk the hierarchy associated with celebrity culture bringing them to an ordinary level. I have been interested by the investigation of feminist cultural theorist Lauren Berlant into the new media that shapes specifically women’s lives. She questions how we deal as viewers with the technological landscape created by the media. My practice attempts to fulfill a desire to occupy this new space in a digital world. I use a DIY approach to fabricate a holding within the technological landscape, a hands on method that opposes a highly polished finish and regurgitate information as quickly as it is received. The ‘mass intimacy’of “women’s culture” promotes a personal public ‘expressed in extreme genres tending to hyperbole and grandiosity’ (Berlant: 2008:ix). Through my practice I want to join Berlant’s interrogation into the way culture organises public emotion.
A key theme throughout my practice is the use of gossip: art historian Gavin Butt describes gossip to be seen simultaneously as both harmless and harmful. I provoke this double-edged sword: I give contradicting information to the viewer based on gossip magazines, blogs and my own judgment. It is both fact and fiction. From under the ‘Wooden Wig’ I enquire harmlessly as to the viewers’ knowledge of this gossip, thus allowing the viewer control of their opinions, simultaneously I present the gossip as fact, disallowing the viewer a conversation with the ideology of the work. The use of flirtatious gossip simulates the impact within the media, our ordinary lives and the art world. It highlights the extent of value judgment within society. The wooden characters express the possibilities of elevating themselves above the limitations of the doxa caused by personality branding and gossip entertainment. I attempt to show their capabilities of being considered something different to their perceived public image and play with the stereotypes that they have been labeled with, pushing them to extremes to show their absurdity. The ‘Wooden Wig’ initially embodies my alter ego, acting as guide and figurehead, it is one of many forces within the work that emits high-octane energy that battles the doxa. The face is a prominent symbol: as mask, brand logo, and powerhouse. I emphasise the face as a façade, an offering to be judged by. I consider it the powerhouse that sits on a knife edge, if detached, beheaded, power is lost to the individual.
The research of art historian Gavin Butt into modes of cultural seriousness has encouraged my use of humour as a methodology. Butt engages in working against or beside the doxa of received wisdom (Butt: 2005). Humour shows the edges of the serious, it points to the unquestioned authority of things done with a polished finish. Jokes work at the expense of the serious and professional, it worries and hassles their authority. Humour has to be crisp to understand the po-face that it de-bunks, bringing down the hierarchy of the serious to become level with the non-serious. It is a method that cuts through the common status, preconceptions, authority and value given to professionalised format to bring to a common playing field. Humour is alive and is a form of consumption; it is capable of a mobility to point to things. This methodology not only points out the value judgment within celebrity culture but also cuts through to issues of judgment and preconceptions within the art world and society on an everyday level. My work appears mad, but it is this expression of madness that is an honest portrayal of the norm.
1-Berlant,L. (2008) The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business Of Sentimentality In American Culture. London: Duke University Press.
2-Butt,G. (2005) Between You And Me: Queer Disclosure In The New York Art World : 1948 – 1963. United States: Duke University Press.
Sophie Trigg 2012 © Copyright