The female nude in Western painting was there to feed an appetite of male sexual desire. She existed to be looked at, posed in such a way that her body was displayed to the eye of the viewer
– John Berger, Ways of Seeing
The male gaze is simply said the act of seeing the world and women in the arts from a masculine and heterosexual point of view, presenting women as mere objects of male pleasure. Laura Mulvey, a British feminist film theorist, coined the term in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema in the early 70’s. The theory lays out that in movies, frequently the audience is put in the perspective of a heterosexual man, and there is a focus on the physical female appearances, it denies women their human identity and downgrades them to objects. And it’s not only apparent when beautiful women without lines are passing by in slow motion and her hair is blowing in the wind-machine. The male gaze is also in place when a female movie character has no real importance of herself, no storyline, no presented background, but it’s about how she makes the male character feel.
Yes if you think about it, this has been the norm for many, many years, only since recently many (mostly female) screenwriters, producers and directors, have taken matters into their own hands and resist telling the story from a strictly male point of view.
Throughout history, art was commissioned by, looked at and created by men thus leading to the male gaze. Also. Not. The. Case. Any. More. There are many female artists that are exploring the issues of self-image and female identity, and – needless to say – don’t treat themselves as a means to male’s pleasure.
One of them is Juno Calypso (born 1989, London). She won different awards and prizes with her self-portrait photographs. I can call most of her works as feminine ideal on steroids. The overkill of a pink decor, beauty products, and overall ridiculous glamour, actually undermine the very concept as being “natural”.
In her upcoming exhibition for TJ Boulting, she will present a new body of photographs she took at a surreal and unique location: an underground house in Nevada. This bunker, so to say, was built by Avon cosmetics founder Gerry Anderson in the 60’s (during the Cold War), designed to withstand virtually any disaster and protect from almost any intruder. It’s a perfect fit for her work since it has an all-pink bedroom, crystal and gold fixtures in the bathrooms, a swimming pool, waterfall, and hot tub. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the staged self-portraits in the different rooms.
What To Do With A Million Years by Juno Calypso is on view at TJ Boulting from 15 May 18 – 23 Jun 18.