In The Dollhouse
- Dina Goldstein
- Curated by:
- Katsumi Kimoto
- Exhibition Location:
- Kimoto Gallery
- Opening reception date: 02/11/2013
- Opening reception Time: 14:00
- Start date: 29/10/2013
- End Date: 15/11/2013
The (De)construction of Barbie/Ken: Dina Goldstein’s Genderqueer Dollhouse
At last! The veil has been lifted on Barbie’s emotional distress and Ken’s genuine sexual interests. In her photographic series In the Dollhouse, Vancouver-based artist Dina Goldstein chronicles the unhappy marriage of the two most iconic, played-with, and, some would say, socially problematic dolls ever designed. Through her ten-part story, she peeks into the private life of the couple, dismantling the sacred aura surrounding these symbols of our popular visual culture.
In the late 1980s, picking up on the claim of Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty that the body is a historically contingent site of meaning, feminist theorist Judith Butler offered a reconceptualisation of gender as a “corporeal style,” the cultural and performative interpretation of the facticity of the body. Furthermore, Butler argued, if gender performance eventually leads to the sedimentation of the roles ascribed to biological sexes, then “performing one’s gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect.”
It is with the possibility and implications of subverting “sedimented” gender behaviour that Goldstein is primarily concerned in the Dollhouse. Surprisingly (and, hilariously) enough, what we see is a genderqueer Ken reading The Oprah Magazine, wearing Barbie’s stilettos, and leg shaving in the bath. Devastated by the news of her husband’s gay affair, we later find Barbie shifting to a boyish appearance by cutting her iconic hair and putting on a suit and tie.
What is especially noteworthy about the proposed articulation of gender roles is precisely the use of Barbie and Ken, as they have continuously embodied the epitome of popular gender expectations throughout their fifty years of imposed partnership. Thus, just as we slowly realize that the subjects of the photographs are not really plastic toys, the Dollhouse becomes a site at which our behavioural expectations flicker, and where traditional gender roles are renegotiated in creative and productive ways.
And yet, as we encounter Barbie’s despair, we are just as much encouraged to reflect upon the implications of “performing one’s gender wrong,” upon what we need to sacrifice in order to give way to something new. The Dollhouse is also, more broadly, a questioning of the (anachronistic?) place of marriage as an institution in our contemporary period, as well as of the value we place on beauty and the weight that it carries “within the interior walls of our lives.”
So as we sneak into Goldstein’s Dollhouse and ponder what it communicates, it is ultimately at ourselves, our practices and behaviour, that we are being prompted to look—as is revealed by the (our?) wide-open, scrutinizing eye reflected in Barbie’s mirror in the haircut scene…
Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” Theatre Journal, vol.40, no.4 (1988): 521.
Dina Goldstein, e-mail to the artist, March 18, 2013.
DINA GOLDSTEIN – b.1969
Dina is a conceptual photographer specializing in the creation of visual series that place the mundane and everyday in unusual settings to inspire insight into the human condition.
Her two recent projects are “Fallen Princesses”, 2009 and “In the Dollhouse”, 2011.
“Fallen Princesses” is an ironic look at children’s parables, from Grimm fairy tales to Walt Disney. By placing iconic characters such as Little Red Riding Hood or Snow White in modern situations, the series became a commentary on such everyday scourges as poverty, obesity, cancer and pollution.
“In the Dollhouse” is a series that plays out as a narrative, peeking into the home and marriage of the world’s most iconic dolls, Barbie, and her partner Ken. It offers a profound commentary on the transient nature of beauty, the difficulty of marriage and the importance of authenticity.
These works have been recognized for their metaphorical and ironical messages, which transcends cultural borders and have sparked much conversation and accolades from academics, editors and bloggers around the world.
Based in Vancouver, Canada Goldstein lives with her filmmaker husband and their two lovely young girls.
- 1525 West 6th Ave, Vancouver BC, V6J 1R1
- 604 428-0903
38 x 53.5 in.
Giclée archival ink jet print
38 x 53.5 in.
Giclée archival ink jet print