my work focuses on human behaviour to highlight what i consider as persistent discrimination in society. i use sexual objects as proxies for gender conflict as fundamental cause of inequality to bring greater urgency to the debate about discrimination. i draw on sigmund freud’s psychoanalysis to frame the causes of human behaviour rooted in sexuality. the surrealist art movement constitutes an important inspiration for the depiction of my art.
the inequality rests in the traditional social dominance of the male. historically important male attributes like physical strength, assertiveness and aggression remain pervasive in societies today. this has resulted in a hierarchical relationship or subordination of the woman to the man. the systemic hierarchy, based on simple gender attributes and not ability, transcends through society making it structurally discriminatory. a society that does not resolve gender conflict cannot therefore resolve discrimination.
the discrimination is reinforced by behavioural patterns and projected by ideals. simone de beauvoir wrote in 1949 in ”the second sex” that femininity is formed in part from the reflection or mirror images against which women are taught to measure themselves.
the use of sexual objects is to draw attention to the centrality of sexuality for human and therefore societal behaviour. the objects including genitals and body sculptures serve to illustrate systemic biases in society. the portrayals lean on surrealist representations. important influences are louise bourgeois and sarah lucas.
the objects are often shown in large numbers. this refers to the notion of repetition as a pointer to freud’s analysis of resolving conflict. repetition is a psychological phenomenon in which a person repeats or enacts an event multiple times that is often associated with a traumatic incidence or angst.
the wall of vaginas “the origin of the world” depicts 220 felt-made vagina-looking soft sculptures. the title has been borrowed from the 1866 painting of gustave courbet of female private parts owned by sylvie bataille, former wife of jacques lacan, a leading psychoanalyst and closely connected with the surrealist movement. the vagina represents both object and subject. the former refers to the vagina as a symbol of sexual desire. the latter is a symbol of femininity. the large number of vagina sculptures depicts the excessive objectification of sexuality while at the same time showing the extensiveness of sexual discrimination. the use of felt references to a long history of work with fabrics associated with women’s cultural traditions.
the soft body sculpture combines a female and male body to symbolise the interdependence between man and woman. the pins on the female’s breast and vagina illustrate protective measures women require amid abuse by society.
my practice reflects on my experience as woman and mother of three daughters. the me-too movement has served as a reminder that society continues to struggle with gender conflict. there also seems to be a revival including in politics of images of strong male leaders tied to nationalistic and populist ideologies. the resolution of gender conflict is a resolution of discrimination generally to establish more of a level playing field among all members of society, greater inclusion, fairer competition and bringing higher utility for society as a whole.