WEARING SHOES CHOSEN BY THE CURATOR BY JEMIMA STEHLI
The work of Jemima Stehli is about looking, voyeurism, the male gaze, performance and exhibitionism. As an example the work ‘Wearing Shoes Chosen by the Curator’ Stehli lies in what looks like an almost empty car park on a concrete floor completely naked apart from the shoes. The space she occupies is actually,on closer inspection, an exhibition space. She has now become part of that exhibition by her presence in the space. The use of her own body as an exhibit (to be displayed and looked at) challenges the viewer/voyeur (as now the viewer is a voyeur and has become part of the performance) to not just glimpse but observe, take in, peruse this body, taking time over it as they would any other work of art in a gallery.
The viewer looks upon and making the nakedness less natural, more sexualised, they come to see the shoes and the title of the ‘piece’. The shoes have been chosen by the curator (the person in charge of the exhibits and their arrangement. The exhibit (the artist) is now something that belongs to the curator, there is a sense of the curator owning the work (or certainly in stewardship of it) therefore by placing the shoes on the artist and in this case a woman artist, he owns the woman. This of course presupposes the idea that the curator is a man which seems to be the intention of the artist to make the viewer think that it is a man by the use of placing high heeled shoes on a woman whose identity (which we have yet to discuss) is obscured.
In my own work I often use performance, exhibitionism, voyeurism and the male gaze. For instance in my work Valentine I placed myself under the kitchen sink and photographed myself in underwear my husband had bought for me every Valentine’s day since we had been married (none of which I had ever actually worn). These particular images were problematic in the sense that as I used my camera like a man, I became submissive in each image, my eyes looking down, never directly into the camera, my pose one of submission and servitude (the kitchen sink) so although there is an unhappiness in the images as my body is confined within the pipework under the sink (the pipework also has a female aspect as it had tubes and a womb-like shape in the underbelly of the sink) there is also no solution or perhaps resolution.