Saturday, December 15, 2001

"Shaving" (30'0", Video, 2001)

"Shaving" film still, video, 2001    

Artist’s Statement
30'0", Video, 2001.
            In “Shaving” a woman shaves her legs and underarms. The framing is clinical and matter-of-fact and the camera is stationary. A high-angle shot shows only her legs and feet and then a straight-on long-take shot shows only her arms, breasts and stomach. Finally, she gets out of the bathtub and the water with shaving cream remains.
            In “Shaving” I show the viewer something that, at first, seems innocuous and routine but, at closer look, has serious cultural implications. Like a performance being videotaped, she shaves but the video is played twice. In the first sequence she shaves and the viewer hears the sound of shaving, the water and The Bangles’ 80s pop song “Manic Monday.” The song sets the tone of something mundane, a perfunctory task that women must do as part of their routine. Taking an inordinate amount of time to shave invites the viewer to focus on something normally not given much thought to, and think more about what shaving is and why people shave. It’s kind-of a bizarre thing to do. By taking so long to shave the intent still shots transform the action into a woman “performing” her gender.
            While it’s a choice to shave, there is a lot of pressure from society for women to perfect their bodies and put them on display. Sexism isn’t as overt as it used to be and attitudes towards women and their roles in society are changing. However, when things are subtle, sometimes they become ignored because it’s not in your face or even noticeable.
            In the second half of the video, the sequence is played again but with riot-grrrl band Heavens to Betsey’s song “Axeman.” With the reference to feminism cued by the music, I invite the viewer to now think about the act of shaving in a different way. Instead of thinking about it as a short, annoying task, I invite viewers to question and challenge why women shave and the significance behind that cultural norm.
            The video becomes boring after a while as it progresses slowly and nothing seems to happen. The camera doesn’t move so all attention is spent on the repetitive action. The head is left out of the frame to highlight the action of shaving and avoid facial expressions that can distract. It’s not so much about this individual shaving, but about the act of shaving as a collective action.
            Also in the second half of the video, text is interjected into the long shot. Some of the text reads: “What scares me the most is how normal it all is.” “How can there be change if no one thinks there’s a problem?” “It’s hard to fight against subtleties.” “And everything’s in favor of staying the same.” “Have womyn been conditioned to want to be submissive?” “The sad thing is that intellectually I know how I think I should think and feel … but my thoughts and feeling deviate from that.”
            Ultimately, I invite the viewer to question cultural norms and how they serve as a framework in modern society.