TOYBOY FROM VIEWER’S POINT OF VIEW
Artist Lucy Ayliffe presents ToyBoy, 2016 a 16.20min video piece.
Sat in a darkened room the viewer is confronted with an authoritative booming male voice that fills the cinema space. Rich vibrant images of huge bronze women in bikinis and tiny men in suits are flashed onto an all-encompassing screen in front of the viewer. The giant women are posed in highly sexualised, erotic, degrading positions whilst the tiny men stand on top of the bodies laughing and enjoying the idealised female bodies. Throughout the video the shockingly sexist SuitSuppy adverts flash incessantly, assaulting the viewers senses. The viewer focuses on the deep male voice that flits from one topic to another before they can be quite sure what he is describing. An older woman’s voice echoes out of the darkness replacing the male voice. The conflated and cut up accounts reflect a sense of anxiety and confusion often felt when overwhelmed by a constant feed of sexualised and perfected images creating unrealistic expectations of how women should look and behave.
I see myself as an artist researcher. My investigation delves into current trends in cosmetic surgery, the rise of Labiaplasty* and vaginal rejuvenation surgery, and its uncomfortable relationship with FGM. I am interested in how easily accessible explicit online pornography has shaped attitudes towards women and our perception of female beauty. I am intrigued by the changing trends of pubic hair removal and how discussing this topic is still seen as taboo.
I am seduced by the lush, glossy visual language of advertising and then immediately repelled by its sinister misogyny. In popular culture women are presented as highly sexualised decorative objects that are invariably pouting or smiling, and almost always docile, submissive and unthreatening. My work attempts to challenge this representation of women.
I have interviewed mixed sex focus groups from all over Europe about their pubic hair removal regimes and anxieties about body image. I transcribed all the interviews, cut up the transcripts and merged them with material from my research archive. I was left with unnerving scripts that uncomfortably juxtaposed the definition of FGM and Labiaplasty, with body image anxieties from my interviews. I presented text from SuitsSupply’s Toy Boy press release alongside cosmetic surgeons advertising Labiaplasty from realself.com.
ToyBoy confronts the viewer with photographs from SuitSupply’s 2016 spring/summer advert campaign taken by Dutch photographer Caril Hermes. Images of erotic, passive, scantily clad, objectified women are used to sell men’s suits, whilst the men are fully clothed and active. ToyBoy flashes the adverts incessantly bombarding the viewer until they feel sick and battered.
My work is spurred on by my innate need to persuade the viewer to reassess the endemically sexist and objectifying culture in which we live.
I challenge the viewer to look again and re-examine the apparently light-hearted deeply sexist imagery we are constantly surrounded by but somehow blind to.
*Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to reduce the size of the labia minora- the flaps of skin either side of the vaginal opening, which occur naturally.
Explore my archive of research material by following the link below: