Pressure Me

Concept “Pressure me” was created as performance performed in 2011 in New York gallery Rabbit Hole. Fist part of this series of works was the act of tattooing and body installation – tattooing of tailor meter tied around waste in knot, fixed at the ideal proportion of waist. In the period from 2011 to 2013 the artist has researched through different medias (video/gif, sculpture, handicrafts, paintings, icons) the social pressure on women’s bodies, dealing with all the painful rituals that women carry out on daily basis on their own bodies in order to reach/achieve/get closer to the socially constructed ideals of beauty.

Cleansing of hair, face and body, body hair removal, curling, hair twitching, tightening, squeezing and bending are actions that with its constant repetition have reached the level of ritual, often everyday ritual by which brings the body into desirable state. Since most of the women perform these mechanically, spontaneously and without thinking, repeated performance of these actions in the form of art practice and their display in the sphere of art, before the eyes of the beholders, points out bizarre aspect of everyday life.

In order to understand the pain, sexuality, feelings of (dis)comfort and (non)acceptance of the body, it is necessary to introduce, beside intimate psychological, their social, public framework. Tolerance of pain is here motivated by social award that woman receives as feedback; therefore the pain cannot be easily eliminated by stopping the actions that cause it. When exposed, there rituals become alienated from their function, making body socially acceptable, but they become intervention, artistic activities liberated from its main purpose. It thus creates gap, the space in which the observer disassembles material and social component of acting upon the body, and reassigns to it some new kind of meaning. “Pressure me” deconstructs the imperative of the beauty on a basic level, by materialization.

Physical imperative of the beauty of female body is constituted by current values of the society, while its implementation moves to the private spaces – bathrooms, bedrooms and beauty parlours. Thus is created ambivalent attitude of a woman towards her body, which could be, only after working on it through art practice, turned into something (worth to be) displayed in public. This phenomenon combines simultaneous existence of specific shame and pride, contempt and satisfaction over body like canvas or material, object that is shaped from one thing to another, while resisting to take its final/satisfying form. The exposure of intimate, biopolitical practices in the sphere of art is a transgression and second-degree performative execution of all the processes and actions that are implemented on the woman body. Hannah Arendt stated that „[n]ecessity and life are so intimately related and connected that life itself is threatened where necessity is altogether eliminated.“ (Arendt 1998) and further concluded that elimination of necessity, far from resulting automatically in the establishment of freedom, only blurs the distinguishing line between freedom and necessity.

“Pressure me” points out that distinction between being free and being forced is not apparent, that is impossible to determine whether the aspirations for better or more beautiful and tactics for achievement of better and more beautiful the features of free will and choice or social/biopolitic coercion. Abstract standards of beauty, (self) applied to living female body, are captured and materialized in it and thus forced to expand, deform, and distort, creating the complex, incoherent whole in order to finally be substantiated or abolished.

excerpt from the text “Pressure Me” by Marija Ratkovic