Apparently you can't swear in a thesis or in the oral presentation I have to give in early 2016, so I'm going to post this here and reconstitute it in big words later.
Some 11 years ago, as an impressionable 18 year old I fell in love with the opening credits of a terrible TV show Nip/Tuck, the camera spanning over lines of identical mannequins, the music swooning 'make me beautiful.' And it was beautiful. All those identical taut fiberglass bodies. I was hooked to the show before I even knew what it was about. Maybe I should have smoked less weed as a teenager, who knows? Nip/Tuck revolves around a couple of surgeons running a plastic surgery practice who go around shagging women and fixing their flaws. How very un-fucking feminist. There are so many things wrong with that show that it deserves a whole blog post. Somehow I thought this show was cool even with my mother subtly shoving her feminist agenda down my throat.
So those opening credits began an addiction to collecting mannequins. My parents bought my first one during a family trip to Picton for Grandfather's funeral. The odd logic behind it was that my 3 other siblings had been bought something on the trip and I was yet to receive my gift (bribe) for coming along. (None of us knew our Grandfather that well, he disappeared to Picton to live on a yacht when we were very young, became a Freemason and was notoriously elusive) Weird shit goes on at a Freemason’s funeral. We had to give back their book of secrets and jewels after they figured out we had it.
I digress, after that first mannequin, shit got outta control. Trademe was a recent 'thing,' I had a disposable income (those were the days) Next thing you know 1 turned into 3 which became 5. I used to keep a log of their names, prices and previous homes. Now I just pretend they reproduce on their own and they can keep track of their own damn family tree. Whole mannequins turned in random heads, an assortment of hosiery legs in at least three different styles, the odd hand and a couple of butts. (That's just the parts I can remember) There's even a naked lady water fountain. I've never even had a pond to put that magnificent piece of fiberglass in. I do have a bath though...
Anyway, roll on 21ish, being a creative person with the idea in my head that I wasn't very academic (I failed high school English, math, science, biology, photography) and on the account that I assumed I couldn't hack art school, I headed off to polytech to do a Certificate in Creative Studies. Easy. I ended up not passing the whole course, as I refused to do the very small written component, a stupid essay on graffiti. (Pro tip - grow the fuck up before you to onto higher education, seriously) Aside from that, I made exceptionally creepy art with my arsenal of mannequin parts (that probably reflected more on my mental state at the time than anything else) The stencil from one piece still hangs in my house, it's the subtle beginning of the artist as an Angry Feminist.
After an 18 month stint living in Christchurch indulging my other addiction of regularly changing vehicles, I went crazy from not making 'stuff' and enrolled myself in Art School back in Dunedin. It never occurred to me to attend art school in Christchurch as most of my mannequins were still in Dunedin.
I spent the most part of my undergrad degree having no idea what the fuck I was up to. I nearly dropped out a couple of times. Even though I started creating art with mannequins back in 2007, it wasn't until the last 6 months of my bachelor degree that I got my shit together and birthed Finally something that made me go 'FUCK YEA'. This was around the same time that my mannequin collecting calmed down (a bit). I had finally clicked to all that feminist agenda installed in my brain as a teenager. (It only took 8 years, FFS) I had never questioned it because well, it's gospel, fact. But I'd never related it my mannequin collecting either.
MANNEQUIN BODIES ARE TERRIBLE! WHO LOOKS LIKE THAT?! WHAT IN THE FUCK AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE. Designed BY MEN to sell clothes to the masses but barely representational of 1% of the population. And from that point on in 2012 I was/am/forever and always will be an angry feminist. Amen.
A 12 month break saved some capital for the next project. Roll on the honours degree in 2014 (turns out I'm pretty fucking academic when I'm pissed off enough) This resulted in the birth of The Custom Mannequin Project and the end of my fiberglassing career. Seriously, that shit fucks you up. Now I rent the storage unit of nightmares and occupy an attic of horrors. Won't somebody, please buy the ladies!
Now, as it turns out, not only am I academic enough for a honours degree, I'm doing a masters degree as well. (Fiberglassing must not have killed as many brain cells as I thought) I am now the perpetual student, who has come to appreciate cheap wine and the stimulating effects of too much tea.
I'm yet to fully birth anything in 2015, but be warned, it's on its way. And it will be spectacular. And no, contrary to popular questions I will never make dude mannequins. Just no. There are enough men in the world without me making more, in every sense of the term. Seriously.
* I still collect mannequins and this does not make me a bad feminist.
Sporadic rants of an angry queer feminist artist. Regular updates on Instagram