Sunday, February 6, 2011

pink; casting call

Charlie White is a Los Angeles based artist who created a one day performance at LAX Art last year in September. Casting Call was a prelude performance to find a 'typical' Californian girl; blonde hair, blue eyes, for an upcoming Billboard project, organised through LAX Art. You can check out the images of the performance here.

What I find interesting about White is his fascination with the American pop culture that is projected out onto the world, especially his interest in teen girl culture as a 30 something male.  He makes us aware of the cliche images of American society that is created by the media and throws those images back at us with irony. The truth is that the typical Californian girl has dark hair, dark eyes and olive complexion often coming from a Hispanic background. But this is not the image that has been projected onto the world of the typical Californian girl. We almost resist this idea as being true as we have been subjected, for a very long time, that blonde hair and blue eyed babes are Californian. Even movie stars of the 1950's and 1960's were advised to pull out the bottle of peroxide if they wanted work in Hollywood.

There is definitely a weirdness that happens when teenage girls are involved in any form of projection into the media. For some reason, we (including males) can all connect with the 'crossover' they are about to experience between childhood and adulthood. Of course it has everything to do with sex and we, both male and female, seem to relive our own experiences through an image of a teenage girl. But is our own experience of the 'crossover' really as bad as we think or is it societies prescribed story that it is a loss of some sort that we carry with us? And why is it that when we do see an image of a teenage girl we think about sex almost straight away? I certainly don't know but I am jolted a little and can't seem to find out why I am when I do see images of young teenage girls in their swimwear or presented in such a way as White has done here. It urkes me too, that these images do that as I feel I am somehow being seduced into a way of thinking that may not even be my own.

This strange feeling of not really knowing how I feel, or how I should react, came upon me when I checked out Whites Casting Call performance. I wasn't at the performance unfortunately, but judging by the images and the little that has been written about it, it seems the audience were not sure how to react either. Here they were, within a gallery space in the dark, invited to sit back and watch through a dividing glass wall, a room lit up with teenage girls and the casting process of viewing 100 girls. The audience could only watch what was going on as there were no speakers to eavesdrop on the verbal process. This forced the audience to create their own dialogue with what they were seeing. As we watch these teenage girls being judged by their physical features, we are listening to ourselves judging them being judged, judging the judges doing the judging and judging ourselves for judging everything! Confusing? Yes! I can only imagine the cliched dialogues the audience were creating, as I suspect this was Whites intention by shutting off the audience from the verbal communication. The audiences internal dialogue about the event would have come from many places, mainly from what they had been told to feel about such an experience through the media. I suspect this is exactly what White wanted to create as an experience for the audience. The process and the environment makes us aware of our own thinking and where that thinking may be coming from.

Below is the final image that was chosen to appear on the Billboard. The gridded background is reminiscent of the mug shots these girls would have for agencies to judge the proportions of their features. The girl stares at us staring at her with an expression that may ask why are we judging her. No text is needed as the simple image says everything as a billboard.

In 2006, White created the video below as part of Adidas:Adicolor campaign. He uses pink in alot of his works when commenting on the American teenage girl culture and this video, titled Pink, is no exception. It has a very melancholic feel to it as if how sad (?!?!?!) it is that the girl has transitioned, through the act of sex, to become a woman. It appears to reflect our (societies) projections of what the transition is to be for a girl from adolescence to adulthood. How sad indeed that this is how we are 'told' the transition will be like; a loss of some sort.

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