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The Substitute

C-type prints

(series of 9),

mounted on aluminium,

1m x 1m, 2007-8

Primarily my artwork is self-portraiture, but not in the traditional sense. In the work I create a photographic copy of myself and place it in the real world instead of me. The photographic cut-out is my metaphor for the lure of the edited, idealised and sexualised images of the female body that dominate our visual culture: they produce unrealistic expectations of how bodies should be, and when we judge our own and other people’s bodies against these impossible standards, we can only be disappointed.

In 'PUTTING HERSELFIE IN THE PICTURE 'The Substitute' by Dawn Woolley' Karine Chamberfort-Kay writes:

'Dawn Woolley’s photograph foregrounds both the objectification of women and the collective fascination of our contemporary societies with idealized Photoshopped bodies [...] through a network of visual tropes and evocations, Dawn Woolley’s image pinpoints the articulation between the male gaze and the proliferation of perfect female body images in contemporary visual culture. It first came as a surprise to discover that this very image had been awarded the first prize of the Selfie competition organized by the Saatchi gallery of London in 2017. Not that there was any doubt on the artistic quality of the image; but because, at first glance, the photograph seemed to be far removed from the traditional mirror shots produced in the millions by mobile phone users. Yet, claiming ‘The Substitute’ as a selfie, with the photographer putting herself in the picture through a surrogate paper doll, was indeed a powerful way to amplify the visual tropes already in the photograph: first, by reminding us that the photographic alter-egos usually exhibited as ‘selfies’ are but carefully crafted frauds, telling very little about our real selves and bodies [...] Second, and more importantly, Dawn Woolley’s picture spotlights the new combination induced by selfies, between the male gaze and a new female gaze, whereby the subject is alienated into commodifying her own body to conform to aesthetic standards of social networks and into performing a form of visual self-surveillance'.

Archivo Papers Journal, 1:2

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