Gravity: Gravitas Rosy Martin in collaboration with Verity Welstead
This project aims to challenge attitudes towards ageing. By turning the camera unflinchingly on our own ‘real and lived-in’ bodies, we made images that were often initially difficult to accept. We chose to examine our bodies for those infamous ‘signs of ageing’ that advertisers and the media focus upon: wrinkles on our hands and faces, widening waistlines and sagging bellies. Using a macro lens, we made these strange through extreme close up, cropping, and active performances. How mysteriously could we show our bodies so that the viewer would be uncertain as to what they were looking at? We found these acts of defamiliarisation, or ‘making strange’ a very useful strategy, especially when dealing with subjects that can be too often simplified or “cliched”, and indeed for women surveying their bodies too often loaded with feelings of disgust and disaffection learnt from dominant media or the Internet’s replication of idealised (unobtainable) perfection and advertising. Defamiliarisation offered a way for us to move, albeit slowly and with some apprehension towards playing with our representations of ourselves.
Body as landscape: by referencing Mikhail Bakhtin and his work on Rabelais and his notions of ‘grotesque realism’, this was a playful and humorous exercise in how grotesque it was possible to make flesh look. Whilst initially we did want these images to be strange, even repellent and shocking the more important aspect was to show just how ordinary, commonplace and ubiquitous real lived-in flesh is.
We decided to search for beige or taupe clothes, that all too ubiquitous supposedly safe older women’s colour choice. We took it in turns in front of the camera and bounced ideas from one another. Wrinkled tights, awkward stances, hiding within and behind beige, curling up on the floor and struggling to get up, or even allowing myself to look as if I was out for the day from a care home, we were playing with appearances and allowing ourselves to make the worst of it. Rosy’s mother’s woollen vest, in soft beige offered us a unifying image pairing, an honesty which we both embraced for ‘Studies in Beige’.
See essay ‘Outrageous Ageing as Activism’ in ‘Feminist Art Activisms and Artivisms’ Ed K. Deepwell Valiz Netherlands 2020