My Perfect Body was part of an exhibition featuring Brooklyn artists whose work seen together in contrast arouses anticipation, fear, excitement, domination and surveillance. Guest curated by Helen Varola, AnXious opened January 19th and continued through March 10th, 2002 at the d.u.m.b.o arts center (dac).
In the future, women might be able to take a pill and wake up the next day looking like Tyra Banks or Jennifer Lopez. In the meantime they have cosmetic surgery or most, like myself, work out. While speculating about this one day in gym class, I decided to exorcise my demons and have a laugh at myself at the same time by creating an installation about our obsession with achieving the perfect body.
This is the story of Susie Spandex, Gym Bunny, Harmony Hardbody, and Ashley Abs, four mannequins who work out tirelessly at the gym because they want to be beautiful and to improve their love lives. Each wears a mask fashioned from my face. They work out in front of fun house mirrors, constructed to exaggerate that part of the body about which each mannequin is most insecure, therefore reflecting the image she has of herself.
The installation is set up like a work out class at a gym. On entering, you step into an expanded moment in time catching the mannequins in the middle of an exercise. Fitness paraphernalia is strewn about: body bars, weights, bands, and mats. A TV monitor is mounted in front of the mannequins. Each mannequin has a spotlight focused on her and a small speaker is located near her to give presence to her voice. The show begins like this:
The My Perfect Body theme music swells. The "Absolutely Perfect Butts, Breasts, Thighs, and Abs Work Out" video begins to play on the monitor. It features three beautiful young women working out with abandon. Their bodies glisten with sweat, their muscles bulge, buttocks move rhythmically, pelvises tilt up and down, legs open and close.
As the video plays, each mannequin voices her opinion about working out, love, and her fellow mannequins. As each mannequin begins to speak the video freezes on an exercise that matches her own. After each mannequin has said her piece, the video credits roll over the My Perfect Body theme song.
The show runs approximately 12 minutes and replays every 15 minutes. A computer program, developed exclusively for the installation, synchronizes the mannequin voices and video, controlling when each mannequin speaks in relation to what scene is playing on the TV monitor. The video is stored on the computer's hard drive along with audio tracks for the music and mannequin voices. The audio is separated into 5 distinct channels -- 4 mono channels for the mannequins and 1 stereo channel for the music and video sound -- and fed to each of the 6 speakers placed throughout the installation.