BURDEN OF SELFHOOD
:: ABOUT THE WORK ::
Technology has accelerated the recursive gaze to the point that we continually perform and project back onto each other our internalized expectations for unattainable perfection. By combining research from cognitive science, music, poetry, video and performance art, this work investigates the experience of viewing and being viewed as a gendered body. The performance is comprised of large-scale data visualizations and live performers to make explicit both the collective gaze and the implicit impact of being seen. Through projection mapping and large scale video, the face becomes a malleable surface bearing traces of all the data it absorbs. To what extent do people voluntarily alter their faces to comply with unrealistic beauty standards? What role does capitalism, internalized misogyny, and social media play in this situation? What are the possible reasons to explain why women would voluntarily change the way their faces look, in a daily makeup ritual?
:: EXCERPTS & DOCUMENTATION ::
For this project, we interviewed 24 individuals with different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender and age. In the lab, they watched makeup tutorials from YouTube, such as an 11-year-old girl teaching how to apply makeup, a survival from an acid attack teaching how to conceal imperfections, a woman “contouring” her face in order to "look photoshoped without photoshop", among others. While the interviewees watched the makeup tutorials, their gaze was been tracked. This data was then translated into a heat map, which was used in the composition of the film. Below is a sample of the eye tracking / heat mapping:
The audio collected from the interviewees (talking about their impressions after watching the YouTube videos) was used as a source for the sonic component of the piece.
Excerpt: The Power of Makeup
The use of glitches, multiple people talking, metronomes, quotation of the background music from the YouTube tutorials and sounds of a prepared disklavier were also used in the composition of the sonic element of Burden of Selfhood.
Excerpt: Makeup for Man
:: TEXT ::
A text-mining software was used to collect thousands of comments left by YouTube users on the comment section below each of the selected videos. An original text was created using the data collected with the text mining (click here if you'd like to download it).
The text was then recited by a human and also by different synthesized voices, via text-to speech software. Both versions were then transformed into MIDI data and "read" by the disklavier. Below, a video clip of the disklavier "reading" a fragment of the first page of the original text:
:: SOCIAL MEDIA ::
The comments from YouTube users ranged from life threats, to bullying, requests for new tutorials and supportive words:
Excerpts: "Negativity" (0:00 - 1:30) & "Take her swimming" (1:30 - 3:05)
The video and the music for Burden of Selfhood are both a critique and an open window to access issues related to unattainable beauty standards, misogyny, internalized self-hate, a search for self-love and the ways the cosmetic and information industry capitalize on those issues.
Excerpt: "With or Without"
:: PERFORMANCE ::
After the 38 minute video (which has been sampled above) a solo performer sits in front of the audience. She becomes a canvas for a projection mapped onto her face.
:: VIDEO ::
Full video (38 minutes)
:: PHOTOS OF THE PERFORMANCE ::
Burden of Selfhood is a multi-disciplinary work developed in collaboration with other four female artists/scientists: Amy Fox, Heidi Kaiser, Sarah Ciston and Stefani Bird, with the support of Qualcomm through CalIt2 and the IDEAS residency and festival.