Just don’t call them ‘doll’

Ramat Aviv exhibition explores feminine identity.

May 25, 2010 23:19
3 minute read.
DECONSTRUCTING ROLES women play. A piece by Rachel

mangled mannequin 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Starting this week, each visitor walking through the Arcafe entrance of the Ramat Aviv mall will be met with a glamorous welcome from 100 statuesque women, some of them naked. Could this be every man’s fantasy? In this case, no. Their welcome is rather silent and cold – not how one might imagine models would act.

But despite their silence, these seemingly indifferent women have something to say about themselves, and they want all of the mall’s visitors to listen in. They are in fact mannequins, making up an exhibition titled “Hey Buba” (Hey, Doll) – about female identity – which is sure to cause a stir. The bold exhibition is the brainchild of Israeli artist Tami Sinar, who initiated the project in early 2009 and has been producing the exhibition. 

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Sinar says that she developed the project out of the need to analyze modern Israeli women and examine how the global rise of feminism has both positively and negatively affected their careers, families, personal fulfillment, social expectations, femininity and motherhood.

“I work with artists and I am always surrounded by female artists,” Sinar says. “Because I design exhibitions for artists, I am constantly exposed to conversations about how women are asking incessant questions about their own identities. Since all women have the same doubts and conflicts about themselves, I wanted to develop an exhibition of mannequins in order to symbolize all of the different characteristics and conflicts women are now facing with their modern femininity.”

For the project, Sinar approached 100 Israeli female artists of various backgrounds and artistic bents, in an attempt to diversify the perspective on how women are currently viewing their evolution.

“The exhibition came from my heart, and I [wanted] every woman who participated in the exhibition to be distinctly herself,” she says. “I wanted to underscore that being yourself is not always pretty. It can be all sorts of things, but, really, what is most important is being yourself.”

WALKING THROUGH the exhibition, which snakes through the center of the mall, analyses of the dolls can be heard can be heard in the air – mostly from couples. Ironically, more often than not it is the men explaining to the women what they believe the exhibition represents. Sometimes, even the mannequins appear to be rolling their eyes at these analyses.

Each mannequin reaches a height of at least 190 cm., far taller and skinnier than the average woman strolling through the exhibition. Sinar says that the dolls are indeed meant to represent the unattainable ideal of beauty that is thrust upon women.

“These model-like dolls were selected because, in reality, these dolls are themselves simply empty and hollow creatures, that is, unlike real women,” she says. “The dolls represent an ideal of what society believes women should look like and act like. In reality, I wanted to show what women really feel. I didn’t want to show how women are supposed to feel or look like. I think the casual observer will understand the concept. I believe that art is not about showing what we mean, but should instead be raising essential questions about ourselves.”

The exhibition is sponsored by Liora Ofer, the chairwoman of the Ramat Aviv mall, who commented that the mannequins are “a celebration of femininity, beauty and art, emerging into a fascinating mosaic of images about the concepts of self in Israeli women, [in fact in] any woman experiencing internal conflicts between her image and the different roles she holds that define her identity to the world.”

And the spectrum is indeed diverse; from the underwear-clad mother holding both a baby and a cellphone, to the woman with flowers pouring out her neck in place of a head, and the representation of Themis – the blindfolded goddess of justice balancing her priorities on a scale – the exhibition successfully portrays a multitude of current representations of feminist identity.

Underneath each grouping of dolls is a sign that reads “Do not touch,” a rule that is dutifully enforced by the mall’s male and female security guards. With the exhibition giving such powerful voice to women, the sign’s presence represents something larger; the growing diversity of feminine identity, perhaps?

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