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All naked, all the time: The Lady Garden exhibition

All naked, all the time

The Lady Garden is an intriguing investigation into the female body as an asexual object, a performance installation presenting nude women in various forms of objectification, daring their observers to desexualise them, if they can.

The premise is simple – find various forms and instances whereby women can be objects. A lampshade lady and a potted lady-plant are two of the exhibits. But the audience is also challenged to interact with these objects – to see if one can truly engage with their inanimate aspects. Thus bodies will, also, amongst other things, be available as writing surface and canvas, and as life models for drawing by the audience.

Virginia Kennard returns to New Zealand with a creative interest in the body, after gypsy adventures in Scotland, dance festivals on the European mainland, and working as a life model to pay her rent. A common area of casual employment for the freelance dancer, life modelling is flexible cash work, for which dancers’ superb body awareness is ideal.

A choreographer and performance artist, this is Virginia’s inaugural exhibition, and finally, after accusations of being a rabid feminist since the tender age of 12, is her opportunity to prove that accusation right. She says, “there is a facet of feminist discourse which believes any use of an attractive woman in advertising is in fact pornography. While this can seem a bit extreme, we have become desensitised to the manipulation of the sexualised female image as a way to sell product”.

This exhibition challenges the viewer’s gaze of the naked female form, daring them to consider what it means for a woman to be sexualised and whether it is even possible to desexualise her in the wake of commercial bombardment.

That does not mean the viewers are banned from judging the beauty of the Lady Gardeners, nor that the Gardeners themselves are necessarily completely comfortable objectifying themselves. “The naked is tough. One can ‘know’ in theory that their body is beautiful and being naked is fine, but the reality of allowing others to look at it, well, that’s a whole other ball game”, Virginia says. Acknowledging the dominance in this work of women in their mid to late 20s, Virginia hopes the vast array of bodies will have observers wondering if they too could be naked, and recognising that all bodies are beautiful.

The Lady Garden
12th–16th December 2012, 5–8pm
Matchbox Studios, Level One, 166 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington


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