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Patty Chang's Performance Pieces Essay

1235 words - 5 pages

Performance artist Patty Chang creates pieces that deal with scopophilia or voyeurism, best described as “the love of looking”, a topic that goes hand in hand with the issues of gender roles in society that Chang also represents in her work. Chang particularly addresses issues of gender roles through her confrontation of female representation in art, film and popular culture as a whole. In Chang’s video clip entitled, “Shaved (At a Loss)”, she sits herself on a chair in front of her audience, hikes up her dress to expose her vagina and then proceeds to, very roughly, shave off her pubic hair. The entire duration of “Shaved (At a Loss), Chang is blindfolded. In this piece Chang presents consumer culture’s fetishization of the ”flawless” female figure, which is outlined by the unattainable body ideals that are portrayed not only in most mainstream pornography, but also in almost all media connected to our society’s popular culture sphere.
Laura Mulvey’s argument of phallocentricism/voyeurism is also referenced in Chang’s “Shaved (At a Loss). Psychoanalysist Laura Mulvey says that the utilization of phallocentricism in all forms of art and media is the way in which men remain in a powerful position; therefore, keeping our society in a patriarchal state. Chang, and all women are disempowered by their lack of penis, and Chang’s lack is made particularly clear by the exposure of her genitalia she exhibits in her performance. The idea of a patriarchal society is furthered by the attention Chang brings to the power the male gaze truly possess over women as a gender, which is largely due to the heavy patriarchy in our many cultures. In “Shaved (At a Loss)”, Chang provides the her audience with the fulfillment of what the male gaze stereotypically desires, through clear display (via self-exploitation) of, not only her vagina, but also the action that, according to female depiction in most media, women are supposed to perform in order to fulfill the ideal and most desirable image set in place by the male-dominated imagery of pop culture, which describes the flawless pubic region on a woman as hair-free and cleanly shaved. Additionally, the manner in which Chang roughly shaves her pubic region is a visual reminder and indication of the pain that this action often causes women, bringing to light the discomfort that most women will endure in order to meet the standards brought upon them by a male-dominated society.
In “Shaved (At a Loss), Chang denies the male gaze and instead gains a connection with female viewers. Chang is rejecting the dominant male gaze through her use of a blindfold to cover her eyes. Chang appears to be showing the male exactly what he desires, a sexual machine, not a true woman, Chang is a less-complex model of a regular woman, she has no “distracting” emotions and is instead purely a vagina on a body, but she throws this entire image off by the action of shaving, which is in fact what gathers the respect of all her female viewers....

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