Eleanor Antin “Carving: A Traditional Sculpture” 1972
I was re-watching one of my favorite documentaries, !Women Art Revolution, (which is about the untold history of women artists, specifically feminist artists – I’ve placed it below in case anyone is interested!), and the piece above, which is mentioned in the film, really got me thinking about female bodies and their corporeality, picking up on the Grosz reading from a few weeks ago.
“bodies construct and in turn are constructed by an interior, a psychical and a signifying view-point, a consciousness or perspective” (p.8, Volatile Bodies)
Antin, in her piece, was documenting a 10 pound weight loss over 37 days, and her desire to do so was motivated by “purposely toy[ing] with the traditional process of Greek sculptors, who were said to find their ideal form by chipping away at a block of marble and discarding any unnecessary material.” In doing so, I feel like her work makes Grosz’s ideas apparent, the physical construction of her body through weight loss.
Antin’s work also gestures to the male gaze. In acting like a Greek sculptor, she replicates the ‘carving’ out of an ideal female form, that true representation of beauty. That sculptor gets to decide what is beautiful, what is desirable. Much like those sculptors, the culture at large defines and sculpts beauty, the ideal forms of femininity. Women’s value is only measured through their ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’, their desirability dependent on the view of another sculptor who possesses the gaze. To possess this gaze, there is a cultural expectation that the female body therefore needs to be tamed, regimented, and constructed, in order to be worthy of desire.
(( as an aside, Antin’s work, including this piece, is actually on display at Columbia University until Dec. 7th!))