Lee Friedlander: Mannequin
January 22, 2013
The feminine ideal: she is an industry unto herself, a vision of beauty held above all, as a thing to aspire towards, or to have and to hold. She exists because we need her to be, a vision of power or submission, whatever the frame may be. She is both muse and mistress, demanding our attention in ways that go beyond the physical, infiltrating our imagination with a siren song that has come to rely heavily on Autotune. She exists, today, as a reflection of the dominant race, pale of skin, lank of hair, and svelte of shape. She is as curvy as she is allowed to be, not so much as a thing of flesh and muscle, but of the bare minimum because, you see…
Fashion sets the trends, consumers keep the pace, and what is often seen in two dimensions is made manifest in three when we pass by store windows advertising their visual glossary. Mannequins are the new public art, replacing sculptures of the goddess in the name of commerce. In a culture where money is king, the greatest art and aesthetics are that which can be purchased. And so it is the mannequin must relay our ideals and fantasies while simultaneously making them accessible, in the form of purchasing all that is covering she.
More often than not, we look without seeing. We look at what we can purchase, should we choose, but not necessarily at the setting. We don’t see the frame, nor do we see the stage, nor do we consider that we are at once actor and audience in a story that demands our participation. We don’t necessarily think of the layers of meaning upon that which we have rendered mundane, for questions go against the capitalist grain. “I shop therefore I am,” Barbara Kruger declared, and it is the mannequin that reminds us that she can be we if we so dare.
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Le Journal de la Photographie