17 June 2015

'Imagine Being Attractive': Emily McGuire at Jugglers Art Space

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae

‘I just want to be profound and gorgeous’.

Someone actually wrote that on Tumblr. 

And for anyone who’s sifted through the cacophony of Tumblrs - that effectively amount to photos of Cara Delevingne, shitty quality lo-fi webcam selfies and F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes - then this idea probably isn’t foreign.

Female fashion Tumblrs are the focus of Emily McGuire’s ‘Imagine Being Attractive’ exhibition at Juggler’s Art Space. It’s an extension of her Honours thesis, which basically found:

“On the one hand you feel empowered because you’re like, ‘I’m blogging, I can do whatever I want, pick whatever I want, post whatever I want, I can be anonymous, I can be not anonymous, I do whatever I want with my blog’.

“Even Tumblr says, you can literally quote ‘customise everything’.

“So it makes you feel like you’re really empowered.

“But the irony is that you’re blogging this really homogenous mainstream identity.

“Tumblr blogs try and appear smart funny and attractive, but the irony is that it’s often reposted or re-found images from various fashion magazines.

“So of course these archetypal weird fashion blogs are just going to repeat what’s in the media.”

It’s kind of a sad conclusion. That these blogs, that people spend countless hours manicuring to represent their individuality, often do the opposite. In fact, they’re just absorbed into an abyss of Tumblrs that can be reduced to: ‘hot chicks with emotional issues’. 

But it’s easy to be cynical about Tumblr. Of course it’s a site “populated by young people”. And who can’t say they didn’t listen to Nirvana, salivate over a copy of Vogue and look listlessly into the distance thinking, ‘no one understands my deep turmoil as a white skinny middle-class teenager’ (or some variation of this). It just wasn’t on a blog. Let’s just say there comes a point in life where you wrack your brain for your Myspace password hoping that you never get a high enough profile that someone writes an article about it. 

“Blogs like Tumblr are just a new way to find identity and in that search realise that it’s never found,” says Emily.

“So it’s the same with clothing, you get dressed every day and every day you’re trying to figure out what am I going to wear, who am I, what am I doing with fashion, or how am I going to express myself in clothing.

“And it’s a process that has no end. 

“My whole project parallels the way people use images on Tumblr to perform identity and the way fashion also constructs identity as a performance on the surface of the body.”

These ideas manifest themselves in two ways at Emily’s exhibition. Some of her works substitute archetypal images found on Tumblr for text. For example, the words ‘Bored Looking Girl in Designer Clothes’ or ‘An Oil Painting of Some Flowers’. The kind of crap that Tumblr is almost haemorrhaging. And secondly, Emily also used actual text found on Tumblr. 

“People have actually written that on Tumblr and posted it among all these fashion images on their blog.

“It’s like this weird self-deprecating irony.

“On one hand they’re affirming this beautiful identity and on the other hand they’re critiquing it at the same time.”

Why do people write these things or post the images that they do? Well apparently that’s a question for a PhD.

But if you think about it long enough, what happens on Tumblr kind of applies to us all. In a depressing and paradoxical way: in the search for individuality, we’re all being caught in a web of sameness. 

1 comment: