Part of the Open System Association (OSA) exhibition (Everything but the Kitchen) at Harts Lane Studios
Bleaching Identities is an ongoing investigation into the culture of skin-whitening in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Research in India shows that products such as “Fair and Lovely” are successful because they are marketed by combining historical caste, language, and colonisation “hang-ups” with modern notions and symbols of beauty and power. Whereas skin-whitening products can be criticised as racist and unethical, often they are only symptomatic of deeper social and historical ills – crafted as a way for women and men to “escape” oppression and “empower them to change their destinies”. These products provide a way for women to temporarily recapture a sense of “beauty” and womanhood that has been taken away from them by society.
Five Times Doubled is the first artwork in the Bleaching Identities series. It uses the “Fair and Lovely” advertising technique to show the results of bleaching over time; but using manipulated images of the artist. The title of the piece refers to the price tag; the more you are whitened, the more expensive you become. As part of Everything but the Kitchen, the artist will experiment with the basics of skinning whitening products (bleach). This quasiperformance piece, titled It’s Fair and Lovely involves ‘washing’ photographs in a kitchen sink with bleach, then drying them.
Research / publication -
Jagtap, M. (2010), Is Globalisation Fair and Lovely? Exploring Notions of Beauty and Power, Goldsmiths University, January 2010