In the centre of Madrid, about two metres from the metro, stands a woman, legs splayed across the pavement, two fingers stuffed inside her mouth, eyes glazed over, staring intently across a busy road. She is part of a new project by the Spanish artist Yolanda Dominguez called “Poses”.
For about a decade Dominguez has worked on projects that challenge conceptions of gender and sexuality. Her work has also been at the forefront of challenging the worst of the racism that has emerged in the art world after the September 11 attacks.
Some artists have, in their attempts to “challenge gender stereotypes”, in reality produced Islamophobic and intensely patronising work. Dominguez is not one of them.
One of her pieces, “slaves”, asks whether “hidden or exhibited anyone’s body is freer than any other?”. In addressing the prevalence of racism towards Muslim women in art she asks “who is it who really has a veil over their eyes?”
In her 2012 work The Metamorphosis, based on the short story by Franz Kafka, a woman sits in a library slowly filling her bra with more and more pages from the book. She then begins to stuff rolled up pieces of paper into her face to emulate Botox, constantly asking those in the library if they think she looks better, until eventually she is thrown out. As the impact of the “metamorphosis” kicks in she looks more and more delirious. Dominguez is attempting to portray the pressure on women to look a certain way since the explosion of the plastic surgery industry.
Poses, however, is Dominguez’s most popular work so far and has gone viral on Youtube. She has taken the most popular poses from glossy fashion magazines and recreated them with non-models in real life situations. On pavements, in parks and outside shops, she asks women to stretch, bend and contort themselves into impossible poses.
She makes the point that men in fashion magazines are never portrayed in this way, that women often look panic-stricken, insane or ill. While her art may, in some senses, now be “in vogue”, it is unlikely to actually be in Vogue any time soon.
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