DOLL+: BODY TRANSFORMATION IN ITS IDEAL FANTASY
video, 14min15s, 1080p HD 23.98, Stereo, 2020
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Screenshot of Doll+: Body Transformation in its Ideal Fantasy
The body is a troublesome thing.
Our body never changes directly by our own will. It is awkward and resistant to change. I am a fashion enthusiast, but my teenage life was all about fighting against my overweight body, shortsighted eyes, and terrible teeth. My long history of getting along with the imperfect body is the initial idea inspired to me start this work. I always feel like my body is shrinking for no reason. Perhaps no one can escape from a sense of physical closure. This sense of closure is, in particular, the sensation of the body becoming rigid. This rigidity is not due to nervousness or shame, but to the bondage of a compulsion. For example, stretching clothes makes me mortified; drunk guys make people feel uncomfortable around them; Feeling insecure about being noticed for body odor and bad breath; Can't bear the oily skin with the strong need of taking a shower immediately; If my body is outside the "standard size", I will feel ugly and start dieting right away. Eating disorders caused by weight loss, fasting or binge eating, etc. These conditions are all around us all the time.
Japanese philosopher Kiyokazu Wakabayashi discusses such symptom in his book The Disproportionate Body: What is Fashion (the English version is yet to come). Quoting Nietzsche’s “The farthest thing from us is our own self,” he interpreted that one our subtle relationship with body and imagination starts with the fact that one cannot ever fully see one’s own body. We cannot see inside of our own body. For example, the hand and the arm or the armpits, which one can never fully see. When one shaves one’s armpits, the eyes and neck become tense and one becomes quite fatigued. If one uses a mirror, the image is reversed, so one must use intuition. We cannot see our back or the back of our own head, and we cannot see our own face. If we use a mirror, we only see our postured face or our “I’m making plans” face. We cannot see that naked face, which only strangers and passersby can see. That emotionally wavering face is the face that is continuously exposed to other people. I have no control over that face and this realization frightens me. One can only see a fraction of one’s whole body and one cannot see inside of one’s own body. Using X-rays and a stomach camera, a doctor told me, “This is your stomach.” But, those pictures and the experience of the reality of my stomach were separate. Concerning the body, our sensory information is scarce.
In this way, the so called ‘whole body image’ only exists in our imagination. Our body is just an image produced by our mind – like a combination of different puzzles from our limited sense of body. We use different methods to make sure the image, to diminish the insecurity and uncertainty brought by our fragile existence. For example, everyday our body is deformed and processed by our dressing, decoration, hair trimming and styling, etc. When we see the heels, earrings push up bras…Clothes and shoes are not made to match the body, and dressing is not a process of creating a match to the body, but a process of the body matching the model that is created.
Our struggle between the ‘ideal’ and the real body is also a process of self-recognition and identification – it is reflecting not only a desperate obsession of ‘beauty,’ but a deeper aesthetic standardization defined and solidified by the society. This standardization reminds me to link it to my last series, The Doll, which uses the assembly-line plastic doll to discusses the unified production and abstraction of human being. I start to have a strong will to push this unnamed, unrecognizable, and nonsexual doll to the virtual space and tell an absurd story of it. Putting the reborn body of the doll into a virtual world of absurdity, this work stimulates a doll’s perspective of self-identification and a transmigration of its body development. Blurring the boundaries between human and object, this project presents ‘body’ as a product of consciousness, while conscious is sculpted and confined by both the capitalist society and collectivism.
The doll is considered a cyborg, in which Donna Haraway defined as a cybernetic organism, “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” The doll is us, we are cyborgs – the condensed image of both imahgination and material reaity. In the video, the virtual world is a chaos located between 2D and 3D, which contains a large number of trans-cultural elements and references: video games, films, fashion culture, western art history and eastern ideology (Taoism, Buddism), etc. Its storyline is a process of transmigration, which contains a ‘preface’ and three chapters:
Preface: A doll’s monologue. It introduces the reborn of ‘the doll,’ both visually and consciously. It raises the question about the disruption between the existing body and self-image, as well as the definition of ‘the ideal body.’
Chapter 1: A process of how the absolute definition of an ideal doll is established. This chapter is a theoretical experimentation that combines Taoist and Marxist theories. This conceptual hybridity is Grafted on the visualization of dolls – The Taoist philosophy “The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things,” which was initially describing the born of the world, is bounded with the numbers of the doll’s arms here. They each responds to the process including standardization, perfection, and deification. This chapter tells a story of how an image of ‘doll’ is produced, propagated, and finally becoming a sublimation in an abstract way.
Chapter 2: After a universal image of ‘ideal body’ is established and finally grounded (indigenized), this chapter enlarges the gap between the imperfect ‘Self’ and the worshipped ‘Ideal.’ It presents an exaggerate process of experiencing the imperfection attached to the existing body. The doll started to have wrinkled, dull human skin, bald hair; it is detected to have gender (as well as the Taoist definition of Yin and Yang); it starts to experience sufferings (from Buddhism) of getting old, sick, and death; it is also troubled with body distortion.
Chapter 3: this chapter focuses on the process of pursuing the Ideal. Fashion, the way the doll (we) dressed, the exaggerate clothes and hair to conceal the body. The human-skinned doll applies plastic surgery to getting back to its ideal form. These are all ways invented to make up for the endless unsatisfaction of self-image in real life. The stereotypical image is being re-confirmed, and finally goes to an extreme. This chapter contains many hints referencing the existing discussions of body relationship, the sense of reality, etc. fashion brand ‘comme des garcons,’ the film The Trumen Show. And it ends with a Taoism reference ‘The Butterfly Dream,’ as the channel the connects the story, the virtual, the illusion, and the reality.