Controlled Bodies


Ever since the social movements starting in the 1970s (feminism, gay and lesbian, disability rights, etc.), gender roles and body ideals have become increasingly differentiated—towards a wide variety of lived identities beyond or in between the old norms of masculinity and femininity, beauty and strength. And yet bodies are still, or once again and increasingly, subject to control. In this era of globalization, the twentieth-century Western ideal of beauty and slimness has in the meantime also spread to societies whose own ideals were once quite different. People who clearly do not fit into the prevalent bodily ideals are sometimes even discriminated against today. Trends such as «ethical materialism,» which ascribes an existential role to consumption, or «lookism,» which posits that personal appearance is an indicator of an individual’s value to society, have become common patterns of thought. Studies have shown that casting shows on TV, for example «Germany’s Next Top Model,» exert a strong influence on young people’s image of their own body. This only provides further fuel for eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. kunstraum lakeside’s program for the winter semester addresses aspects of media and economic control of bodies, as well as means for critiquing and ­subverting such control. The two Dutch female artists who call themselves L.A. Raeven have been questioning for more than a decade the social construction of extreme slenderness as the standard for beauty and attractiveness in fashion, advertising and the media. In their often provocative works, the artists take up strategies used for recruitment, for casting, and for the measurement and control of «perfect bodies» in the fashion and advertising business and put them on ­display, in what only seems to be exaggerated form. By strongly underplaying the glamour factor of such situations,

L.A. Raeven lays bare the coercion and excessive self-control that really underlies these images of beautiful bodies. What is uncanny is how the same body measurements can be viewed as attractive in one case and pathological in another. Taking the Lakeside Science and Technology Park with its predominantly male employees at as an example, one discerns how particular segments in the economy as well as in research are still gender-related, which is demonstrated in this case through the close connection between technology and masculinity. While L. A. Raeven focus primarily on female «ideal bodies,» the second exhibition this winter semester revolves around notions of masculinity instead. The artists Banu Cennetog˘lu (TR) and Philippine Hoegen (BE) present the oeuvre of Masist Gül (1947–2003), a Turkish actor and bodybuilder whose artworks were unknown to the public until after his death. Cennetog˘lu and Hoegen present the complete archives of this extraordinary personality in an installation that also deals with the issue of posthumously exhibiting work by artists who were unknown during their lifetime. Gül, who in his 300 (supporting) film roles embodied a specific male image, one marked by strength and toughness, subverted the very same idea of masculinity in his «private» drawings, collages and poems, and especially in his comic-like books, all displaying a blend of superheroes, melancholy and auto-aggression.


Christian Kravagna, Hedwig Saxenhuber