Friday, November 10, 2006


Death Lilly: Performing the Flower Girl Role in the Age of Consumption"

(or: Please don't pick the flower girls)

The Age of Consumption. Consumed by free red wine, whilst eating wedding cake off a photographic cut-out enlargement of Catherine the Flower Girl's head, i wonder how the "Age of Consumption" fits into this exhibition. Or is it performance? Catherine is dressed in a bridal gown, serving wedding cake ...

The exhibition can be seen at Edith Cowan University, Building 3, Level 2. By digitally recontextualising images of herself as flower girl, photographer Catherine Gomersall invites the viewer to (re)consider this role. Her flower girl in front of the heavy metal mosh pit is a startling juxtaposition. Or the flower girl's legs swinging in the top corner of an arcadian wedding scene - a flower girl suicide. The image rendered complete with blood-covered refrigerator... [Note: this post has been edited for length. Pages of pseudo-academic writing were deleted after avid readers complained that they were reading, reading, and reading - but nothing was happening. Well of course not. Nothing ever happens in academic writing. That's why it is academic.] ... and catherine is decked out in some kind of wedding dress, but it's too hot for it. "It's like made of plastic." She strips back to a black muscle shirt, billowing ivory skirt, and boots. You go girl. Kick some patronising patriarchal arse! So long as it's someone else's. Not mine.

The redolent flower girl symbolises fertility, the female cycle, but not the recycling of the female. Women are recyclable aren't they? Flowers aren't. Once cut, they wither and die. But then again ... there was that bunch of orange liliums i bought for the spanish painter, but she didn't want to see me, so i took them back home and gave them to Mayhem instead. Community recycling in action. Mayhem's boyfriends never seem to buy her flowers. Are they too cool? Ah, Mayhem. "The woman is both 'inside' and 'outside' male society, both a romantically idealized member of it and a victimized outcast. She is sometimes what stands between man and chaos, and sometimes the embodiment of chaos itself." Terry Eagleton (1983) must have met her. Yes, she is the embodiment of chaos.

Examining the symbolic roles of women in traditional society, whether through art, anthropology, or philosophy (i.e., art) can help decentre and redistribute power by explicating the power relationships, making the normal and therefore invisible hegemonic structures visible. Death Lilly functions in this way.

But these hegemonies are not simply patriarchal. In one montage, Catherine has placed two brides together, in matriarchal matrimony, a framed picture of a pre-Columbian goddess of fertility on the wall behind them. One of the Brides holds puppet-master's strings, secured to the limbs of the flower girl (Catherine) who sits at her feet. Are these women complicit in maintaining a patriarchal power relationship, or subverting it to a matriarchal one? The disturbing subtext of Catherine's image is that men are longer required within this new symbolic order. We are replaced by cells, by technology, we disappear into our own invisible, troubled realms, we vanish up the orifice of our own technology. And life goes on.

These Honours projects are hard. I don't really understand them. I never did no Honours or no Masters or nothin. I'm just an ordinary bloke living an extraordinary fucking life. But i reckon these images of Catherine's decentre the viewer, breaking down 'safe' binary oppositions such as real/fake, normal/deviant, mine/yours, authority/obedience, sane/mad. Montage is, by its nature, a polymorphous and pluralist art. As such it diffuses the rigid compartmentalised phallocentricities of our partriarchal world.

I may not know much about wedding cake, but i know what i like.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WTF? Verbose and I still don't understand... Maybe I should stick with lowbrow like ebay? Like beer, that blog offers real meaning and commentary on the human condition. Must go, I need to consider ...