How do you view the feminine versus the masculine form, what qualities do they share and what qualities are unique to each? How are those qualities reflected in the stigmas society attributes to feminine and masculine form? As artists you are both curators and commentators, your work takes into account as well as addresses the ideological lanscape of the society, how do you think the contemporary depiction of physical form differs from past depictions? Do you think we have progressed? Regressed? What is your personal role in the discussion of physical stigma, whether support, contradiction or discussion and how does your work achieve this?
Two nude bodies flank a doorway. One may walk between them or around, there is a choice. The distance is wider than I thought it would be, probably wider than it was originally, but still too small to walk straight through. You must turn sideways. I was expecting a man and a woman. There were two women, one shorter one taller. Their bodies were there, not interacting, not moving, just there. I chose to pass with my back to the shorter performer and front to the taller one. I thought of Fight Club where Tyler Durden speaks of the decision of where to face your crotch while passing someone on an airplane. I knew I would be presented by this decision, but thought it would be a gender decision, not stature. I had come knowing that I would face the male figure, but there wasn’t one. There were some male figures elsewhere, one writhing on a platform with a skeleton, another spotlit quite high on a bicycle seat with his back facing the wall. Gender was not where I expected it to be. This was pleasing and surprisingly unexpected.
These were reperformances of works by Marina Abromovic and Ulay, in Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, March 14–May 31, 2010. Abromovic chose to use gender interchangeably for these reperformances. Imponderabilia 1977/2010, where two performers flank a doorway, was originally performed by Ulay and Marina Abromovic, everyone had to pass between them touching both. Luminosity 1997/2010 (the figure on the bicycle seat) and Nude with Skeleton 2002/2005/2010 were both originally performed by Abromovic. Gender fluidity is prevalent in the arts, but to see it used with live nude figures in a mid-career retrospective at MoMA was a very contemporary decision and one I found heartening.
Experiencing Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present made me realize that while I strive to use gender fluidly in my work I will always fall prey to the effect gender has both visually and sensually. All bodies are different aesthetically, in strength, and flexibility. For my work I either use a certain body for an image, or tailor a pose to a particular body. I do change between male and female forms but I don’t use them interchangeably. The decision always resides with what a particular body can do and what that bodies’ look can convey. I do find a different quality to each gender and, for the most part, I use those qualities to the advantage of the images themselves.
Nudity in contemporary art continues to gain a greater acceptance. There is a greater use of nude figures across all media from performance work to photography. Occasionally I do come across someone who finds my work shocking due to my use of the body. Conveying classical beauty is not the aim of my work, but neither is the aim to shock. I have become so comfortable with bodies that to me nudity is just a guise. I marvel at this sack of flesh we find ourselves in and use it as an object of expression and form.
I too have done editorial fashion work and I agree with Elle Muliarchyk that many magazines want to include nudity because it is “edgy”. I also find that many in the US are afraid of nudity because of their advertisers, and one magazine I came across who was worried their printer wouldn’t print nudity. So we are definitely far from making the nude figure ubiquitous. It’s the artists who push forward first and once it’s commonplace in their practices it can then fall to the mainstream.