Store windows are places into which we can inject ourselves and fantasize about holiday wishes come true. The windows along NYC’s 5th Avenue lure us in at this time of year, promising a cozy, seductive, and nostalgic respite from the icy streets. When we look into store windows, we want see representations of ourselves; we want to project ourselves onto the mannequins or puppets and imagine a more glamourous or sentimental life.
But with our contemporary mannequins, increasingly representative of singular definitions of beauty, it’s harder to dream the way we might if we were shown more diversity. The European advocacy organization Pro Infirmis spent a painstaking amount of effort into their moving new line of mannequins, modeled after disable public figures like the radio host Alex Oberholzer and the actor Erwin Ajukic. The results are astounding; each monumental public figure, from athlete Urs Kolly to Miss Handicap 2010, is presented with a mannequin modeled specifically after them. For these underrepresented individuals, the place in the store window is no longer a fantasy, but a specific and unique reality.
Some people have been offended by the mannequins, which were displayed in a Swiss storefront for the International Day of Persons With Disabilities, feeling that the project is condescending. But the love and labor put into the works of art read to me as an expression of acceptance and a reverent celebration of our differences and our similarities as human beings. Take a look at the video below, and let us know what you think in the comments!