Based on my own subjective perceptions there are eight black, two non-whites (latino perhaps), and six white models represented. A similar number of tags was cut from each model. Some of the lighter toned samples are not from whites, but lighter areas or highlights of non-whites As well, some darker toned skin tags come from whites. Where does one begin and the other end? Is it possible that racial categorization is dependent on more than skin colour? If so, what? What does the answer to that question (as well as how we classify based on skin tone) say about us?
Using tags cut from three issues I chose models with skin tones that fall in the middle range. Based on my own subjective perceptions there are eight black, two non-whites (latino perhaps), and six white models represented.
This reminded me of Rosemarie Fiore‘s work on paper with fireworks. Not exactly of course, but the stacking of the circles evoked her images for me.
First the tags are arranged in random order, then in order from darkest to lightest, then with the very darkest and the very lightest removed. Some of the light samples are not from whites, but lighter areas or highlights of non-whites, as well as some darker tags coming from whites.
New possible words so far (by far an incomplete project, which the spellcheck marks as incorrect):
Completed late this morning is another in the Skin Tags series. In this case, all the parameters are the same as the previous one except that the samples are three-quarters of an inch in diameter.
Over the past couple of weeks I have extracted samples from the April 2011 British Vogue issue. My first impression is that it is whiter than the American Vogue, but this may not apply for every month. Italian Vogue produced an issue devoted entirely to black models in July 2008. Obviously it not indicative of the overall trend of the magazine. I followed the same parameters for this work as for the last one, Skin Tags (April 2011) with one exception. In this case the samples are in order top to bottom, left to right as they appeared in the magazine.
The following image in the Skin Tags series is from the April 2011 issue of Vogue. This time the tags (7mm diameter) are spaced slightly farther apart on a larger sheet of paper. The tags are also sampled without revealing specific body parts such as eyes, mouth etc. Some are therefore ambiguous about the location of the body they are punched from. There are a total of 309 tags.
Project dates: Jan 2011 – ongoing
EDIT: Sept, 2012 – This series of works is discussed in my thesis paper. Currently, I am collecting issues of Vogue (the latest being a 900+ page issue) in order to continue the project.
Jun 1 (Two new works)
All the parameters are the same as British Vogue except that the tags are three-quarters of an inch in diameter.
I followed the same parameters for this work as for the last one, Skin Tags (April 2011) with one exception. In this case, the samples are in order top to bottom, left to right as they appeared in the magazine. The samples from this issue were, to my eyes, noticeably lighter than American Vogue issues.
In this case, I took samples from bodies with large enough areas of skin that did not include recognizable features, although initially appearing the same as the previous works. The tags as a group become slightly more ambiguous as to their nature. Folds present in some of the tags also bring to mind Deleuze’s theory of the fold, as well as the sexual nature bodies. The sheet of paper is also larger allowing the space between each 7mm circle to expand. There are a total of 309 samples.
My initial impulse in this project was to survey the skin tones represented in Vogue, an iconic fashion magazine. I use a hole punch (5mm and 7mm ) to take samples. One sample is taken from each person represented as long as there is enough skin visible to fit the dimension of the hole punch and/or the photo is not black and white. The small circles are then glued onto a sheet of rag paper in a grid format.
Context – Ongoing
Through the act of cutting and hole-punching I begin to de-contextualize one of the devices that is normalized within whiteness in order to render it strange as opposed to normal or ordinary. The skin tones stretch the meaning of a black/white binary. Are all the lighter skin tones from whites? Where does white end and non-white begin?
- An NFB film called The Colour of Beauty.
- The online version of the Vogue Italy issue that featured only black models that is referred to in the film.
The notion of extraction has been raised in a critique discussion.
“Extract” is defined as (freedictionary.com)
- To draw or pull out, often with great force or effort: extract a wisdom tooth; used tweezers to extract the splinter.
- To obtain despite resistance: extract a promise.
- To obtain from a substance by chemical or mechanical action, as by pressure, distillation, or evaporation.
- To remove for separate consideration or publication; excerpt.
- a. To derive or obtain (information, for example) from a source.
b. To deduce (a principle or doctrine); construe (a meaning).
c. To derive (pleasure or comfort) from an experience.
- Mathematics To determine or calculate (the root of a number).
Something extracted, especially:
a. A passage from a literary work; an excerpt.
b. A concentrated preparation of the essential constituents of a food, flavoring, or other substance; a concentrate: maple extract.
Some of these meanings can offer something to what is happening in Skin Tags. The skin tone sample is being pulled out and separated from its source for consideration. Because a hole punch is being used there is not only implied violence to skin, but the skin must be obtained despite resistance. Information and meaning is derived from the each sample, but also in context of the samples grouped together in a collage.
In relation to violence to skin Claudia Benthien in Skin (2002) offers the following: “In contemporary art, the surface of the body is defined as a projection surface and a fetish, a place of wounds and stigmatization, and individual dress or a cover to be modified. The display of female skin, in particular, often involves violence or self-inflicted wounds, cuts, burns, …” (3)
I am also now thinking about the work in other terms as well. I am thinking about dissection where part of the process involves extraction of organs etc. (historical anatomy theatres and modern day views of dissection in programs like CSI and Bones). Peter Moeschl in Images of the Body: On Sensory Perception in Medicine and in Everyday Life (2000) discusses the idea that when the interior of the body is viewed that it invokes the perception of injury. Not only that a human being is injured, but that the aesthetics of the body have been disrupted. While Skin Tags does not deal with the interior of the body, it does invoke a sense of injury. Other possible referents might be Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror (2002). Although this goes in a different direction than my thesis.
Barbara Fischer in Love Gasoline (2001) reminds me that there is no longer any looking without being looked at, so it is important to also consider how I am being implicated in the work.
– – – – –
Benthien, Claudia. Skin: on the Cultural Border between Self and the World. Trans. Thomas Dunlap. New York: Columbia Univ., 2002. Print.
Fischer, Barbara. Love Gasoline: an Exhibition of the Body in Sculpture, Performance, Video, and Photo-based Works of the Later 1960s and Early 1970s. Toronto: Mercer Union, 2001. Print.
Moeschl, Peter. “Images of the Body: On Sensory Perception in the Medicine and in Everyday Life.” ReMembering the Body: Body and Movement in the 20th Century. Ed. Gabriele Brandstetter and Hortensia Voelckers. Vienna: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2000. 286–300. Print.
Exploring the idea of sampling a Vogue magazine further.
Each hole-punch is taken from each and every large enough body or face featured in the February 2011 issue. Some faces are too small to fill the hole punch area (5mm). Some possible titles are Skin Tags or Love in the Trenches.
Looking through a Vogue magazine today – awesome photography, styling and clothes. Earlier in the day I had a conversation with an artist friend about that very thing. She and I both agreed that looking through fashion magazines was a simultaneous experience in pain and pleasure. Pleasure in the glossy pages, the beautiful models, the imagination of the photographers and obvious skill in setting up shots. Pain in the guilt and feelings of inadequacy as we each admitted to gauging our own body self-image against what we saw on the pages. And then feeling bad about having done that. My friend admitted that she first became aware of doing that when she was 13 or 14 years old.
How young does this enculturation begin? Because it is a process of enculturation – I think where a person becomes so comfortable with the ideas that they fail to question them any longer.
As a side note the Vogue magazine (US edition) barely had any models that were not white. One would think that if 37.6 percent of the US population does not identify as white that to be fair there would be approximately that many models within the covers. What I am reading about whiteness being more about class and economy seems like a valid argument. Enter Marx.