In 1969, the artist Allen Jones presented the public with what he referred to as a “[representation of] the experience of woman:” a chair, composed of leather, glass, and resin meant to depict a prostrate woman bound to its seat. The sadomasochistic chair was for Jones a realization of a more inclusive art form, appealing to universal erotic urges over the class barriers imposed by the fine arts. The tragic thing is that the artist grossly fails in his attempt to make art democratic, alienating and degrading women in the process. The work— and the series it belongs to— fetishizes the female as a sexualized and domestic object; she is literally a home accent.
Of course, this was in the midst of the Women’s Liberation movement; we certainly wouldn’t expect such a chair today, right? Well, the image above recently appeared alongside a recent Russian fashion magazine interview. Here, fashion editor Dasha Zhukova sits in her office atop a chair painfully similar to Jones’s work, the notable exception being that this chair depicts a black woman over a white one. The atrocity is evocative of early slave daguerreotypes and representations of African woman Sarah Baartman; the sculpted woman’s breasts are exaggerated, and her flesh is uncomfortably shiny.
The racist tones of the piece are obvious and shocking, made all the more so by the photograph of Zhukova. The white woman, representationally freed from the chair of bondage, lounges is stark contrast to the black figure: she authoritatively addresses the camera, sporting a smart button down and comfortable yet polished blue jeans. Her hair is swept up, and both her hands and feet are revealed, making a powerful claim over the office setting and by extension the professional world. The black figure is tied down with only hands and feet covered. The image’s intention is clear: look at this white woman who finds herself in a dominant role normally reserved for men, but look also at this black woman being horribly degraded. Can't we all just embrace each other's successes without humiliating people?
This image alone speaks volumes about the oppression of women and minorities around the globe, reminding us that the feminist movement is far from over. Let us know what you think in the comments!
Thanks to Cosmopolitan
Images via Cosmopolitan
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