My artistic practice encompasses performance, photography, video, and installation. It is a feminist critique: I examine representations of gender in adverts, magazines, tv programmes and on social media in order to appropriate their visual language and expose the stereotypes they reproduce. I examine my experiences as a neoliberal subject in contemporary consumer culture and the processes of constructing ideal gendered bodies through commodification. 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 idealized, gendered, ageing body through commodities. Currently I am looking at self-tracking practices to understand how these forms of measurement and judgement, and their employment of an ideology of health, produce particular subjectivities. By viewing quantification through a queer, feminist and anti-capitalist lens I hope to demonstrate the inequality at the heart of this notion of health, undoing the idea of personal responsibility by reintroducing social impacts.
My work blurs the boundary between self-portraiture and still-life, producing inanimate bodies and seemingly animate objects. I began working in still life after seeing my self-portrait work on a blog. The blogger had incorrectly assumed that the creator was male, and interpreted The Substitute series as “the artist has made a series about his ideal girlfriend, who is perfect because she doesn’t talk back….”. After the initial outrage subsided, I was concerned how easy it was to remove the feminist context of my work. To continue my examination of stereotypes and objectification I began sculpting objects that function as portraits of different types of consumer. Materials include porcelain, rubbish, blancmange, and rotting meat.
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.
Artworks encompassing photography, performance, sculpture, painting, and video appropriate the visual language of popular and commercial culture to examine representations of gender. 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: http://lau.collections.crest.ac.uk/view/creators/Woolley,Dawn.html