WCW: Mona Bozorgi Reclaims the Object of Women
Interview by Wenni Zhen
What leads you to such a topic of your art?
At the intersections of gender, culture, and religion, the complexity of representing women’s bodies presents challenges. The problem is not limited to nudity or otherwise erotic representations of the female body; it is about denying women’s power and agency by turning them into objects. As an Iranian woman, who studied in the U.S., I have been influenced to consider representations of women as both an erotic object and as an exotic, covered object. Depicted and treated as objects, women develop a false sense of value that is defined within the context of patriarchal society and male desire. These counterfeit values and demands to reach unrealistic beauty standards are limiting, turning women into something less human, less complex and more artificial and object-like. This idea has encouraged me to critique and subvert cultural meaning through my art.
Why did you choose photography as the medium for the observation of your ideas?
First, photography is a universal language that can reflect or deflect the objectification of women, and it can define common stereotypes between cultures. Second, photography is a medium that inherently turns people into objects to be beheld. I focus on the relationship between photography, advertising, and mass media in contemporary culture. My photographic practice examines how fashion and advertising photography ignore originality and nullify the complexity of personal identity by focusing on gestural tropes, objectifying women sexually, and retouching their bodies to create a false value that is spread and shared between cultures. Also, the relationship between photographs and women is one of my favorite topics. Like photographs, women are exhibited. In the storage and display of photographs, there is veiling and unveiling. Photographs are veiled in the archival box in the museum with private and limited access. When displayed on the museum or gallery wall, they are revealed to the public. These passive objects can be revived by their very materiality and, once unveiled, carry cultural content and meaning. In my project, Objet Fatale, I show that women’s social conformism has placed women in closer relationship to commercial objects and the photographic image.
How did you use visual language to reveal the idea of woman’s objectification?
Through deliberate, photo-sculptural visual strategies, I reveal the possibility to change or at least interrogate the epidemic formula of narrowly objectifying representations of female identity. I combine images of women and objects that morph, becoming hybrid objects for consumption. By using commercial lighting and composition inherent in studio photography, I compare women and objects by positioning them in the same scene and implore the viewer to question the role of women in society. By folding, cutting and warping photographs and remixing parts to make three-dimensional portraits, I show an object reflecting the objectification of women. With all this effort, I employ the transformative power of photography to continually shift the register of portrayal between the subject- and object-hood of the feminine. Objet Fatale re-invests women’s bodies with layered, complex, frustratingly ambiguous, and rich meaning to empower women, not to reduce them to simple objects of desire.
How do you identify yourself?
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach a one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
It would be a workshop on Creativity and Mimicry in Photography. Knowing the power structure between photography and mimicry may cause creativity to pop up in an interesting way.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks and Girlhood and the Plastic Image by Heather Warren Crow.
What is the most played song in your music library?
“Four Women” by Nina Simone is one of my favorites. This music is more than a song for me. It’s a kind of lullaby song that transfers some of the painful traditions and histories of female repression. It makes me awake and doesn’t let me sleep again which I like.
How do you take your coffee?