Body Anxiety and the Influence of Female Artists Online

“Whenever you put your body online, in some way you are in conversation with porn,” reads a quote from Ann Hirsch on the opening page of Body Anxiety. Curated by Leah Schrager and Jennifer Chan, this internet exhibition about female self-representation and sexual objectification transforms the viewer into voyeur in ways that traditional shows do not. It’s fitting this quote kicks off the show, as the experience of clicking through the provocative realms of each artist is very much like slipping down the rabbit hole of internet porn. Sure, we’re all voyeurs at art exhibitions in the general sense, but through Body Anxiety, our voyeurism is heightened behind our screens as we access these works solo, surreptitiously, and respond however we are moved to. This is an exhibition of exhibitionists, who queer time and space by putting themselves on display — on their own terms — for 24 hours a day.

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“Throughout art and film history, the female body and nude has been an ongoing subject in male-authored work. More often than not, the woman’s body is capitalized on in these works while their voice is muted,” reads the overview of the show. Each piece responds to this problem in myriad, captivating ways. There are too many works to describe in detail, but favorites at first blush include Ann Hirsch‘s swirling, morphing vagina dance, Erika Alexander and Leah Schrager’s florid distortions of the sexual glamour shot, and Saorsie Wall‘s video that plays upon the patriarchal expectations of the ideal woman. She invokes the old sexist adage “a whore in the bedroom, a cook in the kitchen, and a lady in the streets” and updates it with a vision of the skills that we must master to be desirable today. Irony and painful truths intertwine in her straightfoward list of requirements which include: “yoga master,” “walks gracefully in heels,” “twerk expert,” “100% symmetrical face,” and “long, luscious, locks.” Randon Rosenbohm‘s scanned diary entry about artistic exploitation and the documentation of Kate Durbin‘s visionary “Hello Selfie” project are also worth mentioning. The latter is compete with mewling cat overdubs, Hello Kitty stickers stamped slow motion onto jiggling female flesh, a feast of chocolate cake, and the main event: public selfie performance art.

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I could write so much more, but the fact is that reviews are rendered almost meaningless when an art exhibition is accessible to all. Digital shows cut out the middleman (middlewoman?) and remove many of the obstacles of privilege: the privilege to travel to the location of the show, to walk through a room full of people, to take time away from work to do so. Body Anxiety toys with and subverts our anxieties about female sexuality in the internet age while reminding us how little space there is for the woman artist IRL. For better or worse, there is far more room for her in here.

Images: still from Saorsie Wall’s Den Perfekte Saoirse, 2012; still from Kate Durbin’s HELLO, SELFIE!, 2014