Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Bellwether": sexist art at Bellevue City Hall

Junichiro Iwase's "Moonwalker 5." Couldn't find a less tiny version of this picture, so enjoy how blurry it is blown up.
"Bellwether" is Bellevue's biennial sculpture exhibition; right now, art is displayed all over the city. This pair of eggshelled mannequins, created by artist Junichiro Iwase, is installed at Bellevue City Hall. If a bellwether is something that leads others, or shows what will happen in the future, evidently art will continue its trend of sexism and the exploitation of female bodies.

As a disclaimer, I will say that this installation was initially aesthetically pleasing to me. The eggshell texture is cool, and for some reason disfigured mannequins always seem "artsy." But the more I look at these mannequins, the more pissed off I get. Why is the female mannequin almost entirely covered in eggshells, except for her tits?? (And her one, lonely arm, which I assume is there to make sandwiches or give handjobs or vacuum, amirite?)

I am so obviously not a prude, and that's not what this is about at all. If both the mannequins were flaunting some sexualized body part, I'd be like, "Neat," and I'd move on with my day. But that's not the case. The male mannequin's "modesty" is entirely clothed in shells; he has nothing equally titillating on display. (I went around the back of the mannequins just to make sure he wasn't secretly wearing cheeky eggshell chaps or something. Sadly, he is not.)

Here's what this art is saying to me: the body parts not covered by their fragile eggshell armor represent strength. So a woman's strength is in her sexuality, while a man's strength is in his literal strength, his muscles (arms and legs).

I know that art rejects "shoulds," and rightfully so, but I thought it was part of art's job or goal to challenge the status quo, not reinforce sexist cliches and gender roles.

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