Slugs, Snails, and Puppy Dogs’ Tails

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Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, 2013 – 2014

Pretty, passive princesses; wicked, warty witches, evil stepmothers and jealous sisters overwhelmingly structure the stories of dated and modern Western fairytales as well as video games and mainstream fantasy films. Sometimes girls and women are absent altogether. How might this shape the perceptions of children regarding the ‘nature’ and desires of girls, boys, and their interactions? Such a deeply enforced heteronormative binary leaves little freedom for diverse gendered and sexual identities, such as female masculinities and lesbian attraction. With a twist to the traditional, images and phrases from a collection of recent and classic children’s books, photographs from National Geographic magazines, and found materials such as cicada wings playfully converge upon unfamiliar contexts within these collages.

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “The clash of steel rang out as the powerful princess fought the Beast”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “‘I shall eat you this minute’ roared the creature – as quick as a cat she whirled around and chopped the beast in two”
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “Stardust flickered in the gloom – poison chocked the air – he let out a growl that would have frightened the bravest of soldiers. The fierce young woman snarled with passion ‘I’ll bow to no man'”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “And with a smile she took her hand'”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “The brave young girl stood stiffly at attention with a mischievous twine in her eye”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “Safe with me my love'”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “In the middle of a dark, moonlit wood she was spellbound by her wit and grace – she fell deeply in love with her and the couple soon married.”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “Thunder echoed and the earth trembled – surrounded by a blaze of light she began her adventure…”
Mixed media collage

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “Soon they left the city and wandered into the desert beyond. There she found the Beast and drew her sword”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “There was a tremendous flash and the roar became louder and louder”
Mixed media collage
Price: $60

 

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails, series of 12, 2013 – 2014
Reads: “She was extremely clever, brave and spent her time getting up to mischief”
Mixed media collage

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Below the Knees

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Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Below the Knee, series of 4, 2014
Gelatin silver photograph, hand printed on glossy fibre paper
27.5 x 35 cm, framed: 36.5 x 38.5 cm
Price: $90

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Below the Knee, series of 4, 2014
Gelatin silver photograph, hand printed on glossy fibre paper
27.5 x 35 cm, framed: 36.5 x 38.5 cm
Price: $90

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Below the Knee, series of 4, 2014
Gelatin silver photograph, hand printed on glossy fibre paper
27.5 x 35 cm, framed: 36.5 x 38.5 cm
Price: $90

Desiree Tahiri

Desiree Tahiri
Below the Knee, series of 4, 2014
Gelatin silver photograph, hand printed on glossy fibre paper
27.5 x 35 cm, framed: 36.5 x 38.5 cm
Price: $90

Desiree Tahiri
Below the Knee, 2014

A command concerning women’s clothing lengths in regards to cultural conceptions of ‘appropriateness’ – the area ‘below the knee’ is a so-considered unthreatening bodily site. The ideals and rules and that construct an ‘appropriately’ gendered, ‘beautiful’ body often go unspoken – indirectly instructed and internalised from the first moments of human consciousness. One disciplines the self, subconsciously or otherwise, to invest time and money into the body to perform a ‘correctly’ gendered appearance in order to reap social rewards and create a body of cultural value. Calves, shins and feet – ‘below the knees’, are not sites exempt, and may perform as personal sites of resistance, brewing with disruptive potential. 

Heel

This is a recent work of mine which was on display in the Sugar and Spice: The Gendered Body exhibition at Studio 19.

Desiree Tahiri
Heel, 2014
Bees wax, stilettos, metal pipes, wood, human hair, digital video
For sale: $250

Heel, 2014, Desiree Tahiri

Heel, 2014, Desiree Tahiri    Heel, 2014, Desiree Tahiri

A pair of high heels in contemporary Western culture is a fashion necessity. Strutting down the catwalk or clunking across polished office floors, high heels are designed to mould the female body into an ideal of the male gaze – legs lengthened, back curved, bottom out and breasts up. Movement is restricted and highly controlled. Physically, the body may become ‘down at the heels’; there are many associated health issues with the regularly contorted posture constructed by heels such as stiffened tendons and shortened calf muscles. On the contrary, there may be a striking sense of power embedded within these everyday objects. As heels grow taller women may literally tower over others and ‘down at the heels’ may adopt a new meaning. According to one article in a glossy 2012 issue of leading fashion magazine Marie Claire entitled ‘Is He Beneath You?’, quoting a 2008 journal study amongst undergraduates, 96% of women prefer heterosexual relationships in which they are shorter than their male partner. Communicating a range of messages about male dominance and deep-seated patriarchal tradition, it is often touted that tall women must not wear high heels. A complex object, the high-heeled shoe may be interpreted in oppressive and transgressive ways – who is being brought to heel?

Reference:
DeNisco, A., 2012, ‘Is he Beneath You?’, Marie Claire, pp. 93 – 95

Heel, 2014, Desiree Tahiri   Heel, 2014, Desiree Tahiri

Heel, 2014, Desiree Tahiri

Exxopolis

Bare footed on a recent sunny afternoon along Sydney harbour, I was inhaled through an oscillating plastic skin-flap doorway into a swollen-bellied, swaying structure nestled beside the Opera House. Immediately drenched in deeply saturated green light, I peered across a cavernous dome into the vibrant labyrinth of cool and bloody hues that is Exxopolis.

The ventricles of an alien world…

Exxopolis is a luminarium – an “aquarium of light”, as some describe, designed and constructed by artist collective ‘Architects of Light’ in 2012 with the volunteered assistance of community groups in the UK. As the Architects state, Exxopolis “occupies half a football field and rises to the height of a 3-storey house. EXXOPOLIS took 6 months to build with 55 people contributing to the making.  It used 3,000m2 of plastic in its construction in 9,000 individual pieces joined with 6 kilometres of seams”. The experience is reportedly ever-changing according to the specific conditions of the outside weather and natural light which penetrates the thin plastic skin of the structure and illuminates it’s interior. Exxopolis was on show at Sydney Harbour from 3rd – 27th of January this year; a delightful marvel to unexpectedly stumble upon.

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Exxopolis at Sydney harbour. Image credit: Daniel Boud (source)

Like stepping aboard an alien spaceship, wandering through the arteries and organs of a softly breathing beast, or being on the inside of a balloon, the luminarium was a truly otherworldly artistic experience. The senses are stimulated by the indescribable intensity of brightly coloured light, sounds sliding down and seeping through the thin plastic skin, and the intricate patterns which splay across the ceilings of the domes.

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Architectural structure within the red dome.

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Blue dome ceiling.

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The way people inhabit the space, like creatures meditatively gliding through the chambers of a lusciously glowing aquarium, was interesting in itself. There are many ‘pods’ along the connecting tunnels and within the main domes of the building; I observed people gently brushing palms against the unthinkably thin PVC skin; lovers embracing within the ruby-red radiance, children lying with their backs agains the cool floor, doused in a blaze of electric blue, watching the wind ripple patterned dome ceilings reminiscent of stained-glass chapel windows, and elastic walls supporting more solitudinous souls, meditating in the glow of radioactive green.

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Ceiling design of the central dome.

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An image by John Owens (from Architects of Air website) of the breathtaking central dome. For more photographs of Exxopolis have a click through the official website here.

An image by John Owens (from Architects of Air website) of the breathtaking central dome. For more photographs of Exxopolis have a squiz through the official website here.

Reference:

Architects of Air, 2014; ‘About Exopolis’, Architects of Air, accessed on 4th March 2014 at: http://www.architects-of-air.com/luminaria/exxopolis.html

Tough as Nails

Video

Desiree Tahiri
Tough as Nails, 2014
Digital video (4 mins)

The attentive painting of another’s fingernails might be seen as a therapeutic indulgence; the interaction between two individuals and the psychological space it creates between them meaning more than the actual product provided. A pair of rugged, worker’s hands are lusciously lacquered by a pair of tender hands – the former carrying masculine connotations while the latter more feminine, and an at times testy conversation ensues. Perhaps feeling their masculinity is called into question by this ritual socially prescribed as feminine within Western society, a somewhat defensive attitude is assumed by the scarlet-nailed pair of hands playing up hegemonic ‘macho’ sensibilities. Between their discussion, quieter, almost still scenes of the rugged character’s apartment fleetingly flicker with vague connections to the subtitled words, as though distantly triggered reminders or memories. These snippets of domesticity perhaps communicate a different reality, calling into question illusionary exteriors and gendered expectations.

‘Boy’s Club’

Video

Desiree Tahiri
Boy’s Club, 2013
digital image projection with audio (7:10 mins)

An image of a young boy positioned within a studio clumsily pointing a toy pistol documents his look of unease. Spoken over the image of his past are the vivid childhood memories of this youth – my father – and narratives of boyish masculinity internalised and policed through the various “courage tests”, cheeky mischief, wrangle-ups and reflections of his sister – simultaneously expanding and restricting connotations within the image and disrupting possible face-value readings of a distanced, documentary nature. Within the context of a 1960’s – 1970’s increasingly Americanised West Germany within which my father spent his childhood, the construction of masculinity was – and remains – strongly influenced by the media – films playing a particular role within this context. Echoes of a John Wayne classic, a cowboy Western series Bonanza – in German, and snippets of the original King Kong – once secretly watched with wide eyes through the bedroom keyhole – nostalgically fade in and out beneath a matured, recounting voice. A further link to the past is made through the subtle background flow of Lili Marlene – a German love song popularised during the second world war on both sides, which my father remembers hearing, as a child, from his father’s record player, and later marching to the tune as a young adult during compulsory military training.

The perhaps restrictive accounts of a macho masculinity interpreted and internalised by children within the subject’s context resonates on some levels with the dominating, patriarchal idealisation of hegemonic masculinity within a more modern discourse of continuity and change. On a more sombre level, making connections with the pistol uncomfortably griped in the small hands of this child are clips of recent news announcements regarding child shootings in the U.S. – where children – overwhelmingly boys – as young as 3 have been intentionally or inadvertently granted access to guns and accidentally killed someone.

From the cowboy films and childhood fighting games my father once played, and more recently the robust, through to the recent, masculinised gun culture in the U.S. – in which some states actively advertise the sale of brightly coloured blue, pink or glittered guns for young children – hegemonic narratives of masculinity have and still are to a large extent constructed as hard, angry and dominating.

E X H I B I T I O N

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In an electric show of eclectic mediums, five young artists explore contemporary conceptions of gender with wit, whimsy and eccentricity. The bodies, objects and materials that structure our society are often saturated with gendered and political meanings. Our media is a melding pot of constructed ideals – the body has become a consumer object to be invested in and worked on to produce a culturally profitable physique. What might it mean for an individual to identify as ‘woman’ within a society of shifting values and diverse expressions, yet simultaneously steeped in patriarchal tradition and lingering assumptions? This show de-constructs and re-constructs the familiar yet culturally complex implicit messages that talk through the telly, flicker down Facebook, are whistled across the street and arise before one’s own reflection. Gendered identities operate within a complex cultural system of privileging and inequality, although creative opportunities for transgression of the pink-blue dichotomy brew… delightfully defiant dismissals or infusions of sugar and spice, slugs and snails. Come along and celebrate fluidity and diversity of self-expression!

This is a free event and is open to all ages.

Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/822356791124672/?source=1