Glasgow School of Art
Glasgow School of Art
The Cultured Body in a Digital Age
Despite the tragic events that befell Glasgow School of Art’s infamous Macintosh Building this past May, the show must go on, and the display of work from these young and vibrant graduates was as impressive and thought-provoking as ever. GSA’s Visual Communication Department in particular showcased some extremely promising ventures with Micheal Sacco and Franc Gonzáles being the two standout artists for me, both engaging in the theme of the human body, its objectification, and how the way in which we view it is being adapted and influenced by the modern age we live in.
Sacco’s exploration into Mr Universe includes two film stills of a muscular, sculpted torso, and one film of the same image, the hulking body rotating as Barry White’s ‘I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Babe’ plays slowly and sultry, the sound glooping through your ears as you feel almost able to smell the heavy, fleshy slab of hyper-masculinity as it glistens and glitters wetly in the seedy red light. Sacco unveils us as a generation of gluttony and excess despite being constantly fed unattainable images of perfection, addressing the consumerist nature of our culture, our obsession with body image and the juxtaposing ever-growing fast food industry. This becomes increasingly more apparent as the film goes on and the faceless torso repeatedly rotates, with Sacco exposing the way the male form can be viewed as a piece of meat by mimicking the rotation of a spit roast. Mr Universe literally becomes something to be consumed, a piece of meat reminiscent of the repulsive rotating doner which our generation greedily and unthinkingly devours, ruthlessly tearing it apart. Here, Sacco draws a parallel to the way in which we viscously dissect a person’s entire being based on this hyper-sexualised, unattainable image of perfection that we are meant to strive to, aspire to be and lust after.
In a similar ilk, Franc Gonzáles’ Untreated Bodies consists of two large high gloss prints and two small 3D digital prototypes of women’s legs and lower torso. This may sound a conventional and recycled method of communicating bodily objectification, the old singling-out-one-sexualised-body-part-to-communicate-that-women-are-seen-as-objects trick. But Gonzales executes it well. The idea, however, is updated, and given a digital edge highlighting the Internet generation’s tendency to objectify the female form, and technology’s role in this. Angular cuts and slices hack off the rest of the women, leaving slick, faceless, chunks of legs and torso. The bodies are patterned by jagged, fierce looking shapes, cold and clinical, void of any colour and the viewer is sucked into a cruel vortex of grey digitised shapes and faceless women. With this Gonzáles makes a horrifyingly accurate comment on the digital age, demonstrating the extent to which technology moulds us through the use of his 3D prints. First he 3D scans a woman’s body, and then 3D prints it meaning that the body has been in a sort of digital limbo, temporarily suspended in cyber space until it has been spat out by the technology that sucked it up in the first place. The 3D prints therefore communicate how we as humans are moulded by perception, showing the dangers of online objectification and the outcome as compromised identity. Untreated Bodies shows how the technologies of our digital age can morph us into mere objects and erase any real sense of human connection until the grey and jagged void consumes us and we too resemble the faceless entities and sexualised body parts that Gonzáles has created.
Sacco and Gonzales’ works are not the most aesthetically pleasing pieces from the show, but instead, are unnerving and grotesque. They are however, on-point, and seen to be so striking because they are current and relatable. Through Sacco’s exposure of excess in terms of both bodybuilding and fast-food, and Gonzáles’ manifestation of the dangers of a digital age, both bodies of work are successful in exposing the ugly truth of a consumerist culture.
Words by Holly Allan