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Artist Statement

My artistic practice encompasses performance, photography, video, and installation. I examine neoliberal culture using a queer, feminist, anti-capitalist lens. It is a form of activism and a feminist critique of representations of gender in commercial and popular culture. This began with an examination of naturalized gender performance in early works such as The Doll’s house and idealized representations of femininity in The Substitute and Visual Pleasure. In my still-life work, such as Pacifier and Hysterical Selfies, I attempted to describe the idealised, gendered, ageing body through commodities. I also examined self-tracking practices to understand how these forms of measurement and judgement contribute to an ideology of health, and produce particular subjectivities. 


Currently I am developing #Rebel Selves, a project that comprises a series of self-portraits, participatory installations, a smart phone app and artworks produced in collaboration with queer contemporary dancers.  #Rebel Selves critiques idealised heteronormative gender expectations in selfies and portraiture. A series of theatre flats and banners, wearable sculptures and photographic cut-outs create a performative space in which visitors can create queer selfies that rebel against gender and beauty norms. Selfies are an important contemporary mode of self-presentation, however, they are often restrained in relation to binary gender beauty ideals. Research shows that bodies that do not reflect these norms, such as those marginalised in terms of race, gender, sexuality, size and disability, are subject to greater discipline and hostility online. The project aims to develop a visual and gestural language for queer selfies present the individual as a glitchy, composite person formed from blurring fragments of body and installation. They will challenge the human centricity of consumer culture, blending the self with different objects, places, and people, to give a complex impression of a more-than-human multispecies tentacular entanglement, to use Donna Haraway’s term (2016).


Dawn Woolley is an artist. She is a research fellow at Leeds Arts University where she co-convenes the Thing Power Research group, and Honorary Research Fellow, Faculty Research Centre Business in Society, Coventry University. She completed an MA in Photography (2008) and PhD by project in Fine Art (2017) at the Royal College of Art. In 2017 Woolley's photograph The Substitute (holiday) was designated the world's best selfie by GQ magazine, after winning Saatchi gallery's from selfie to self-expression competition.


Woolley’s research examines contemporary consumerism and the commodified construction of gendered bodies, paying particular attention to the new mechanisms of interaction afforded by social networking sites. She examines the visual characteristics of different types of selfies posted using the hashtags #fitspiration, #thinspiration, #fatspiration, #bodypositivity, and #quantifiedself in order to understand what these types of self-representation communicate about adherence to and rejection of consumer culture ideals.


Her solo exhibition Consumed: Stilled Lives examines the contradictory imperatives characteristic of food advertising: to indulge to excess and show restraint. Professor Mark Durden describes the exhibition as ‘an adroit reprisal of the still life genre’ that ‘never seeks to speak from outside, but she often uses the vibrant, ersatz and often sweet forms of consumer culture, to mess with and spoil consumerist modes of address. The result is an unpalatable, abrasive, discordant, comic and violent art that alerts us to the fundamental contradictions and hypocrisies, as well as the obsessions and indulgencies, of our present culture’ (Consumed: Still Lives Exhibition Catalogue, p.31 & p. 34).


Woolley also creates public domain interventions in commercial advertising spaces in cities and in virtual ones on online social networking sites.

Examples of research can be accessed at:,Dawn.html

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