The mark of what determines ‘perfection’ is one that is constantly changing, particularly regarding the female body.

Isabella Helms  |  Ed YoungMi Lamine | 25 October 2020

Or Williams, Untitled 7 The Mr and Mrs © Courtesy of the artist.

The race to keep up with beauty trends becomes all-consuming, with the exhausting narrative of social media being a constant reminder that we may not be ‘perfect’ enough. However, slowly but surely, we are starting to see a shift in this narrative. Body positivity movements are forming, women everywhere are communicating their own relationships with their bodies and most importantly, women are reclaiming their own image. It seems that the truth about perfection instead lies within our imperfections. 

In her latest series, Dystopia of the Mind (2020), Or Williams explores the 

middle-aged female body and its role within society. The work acts as a personal anecdote to her experience of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Finding herself without access to a studio, equipment, and an audience to perform to, Williams’ work has transitioned to the digital. Through utilising apps on her phone and computer, Williams has created hauntingly relatable works that comment on the difficult positions that women are placed in once they are restricted to the home. 

Public participation was an essential part of William’s 2019 and early 2020 work. The group activities made the studio a vibrant space in which members of the public had the chance to play an active part in the performance works. The dialogue between artist and participant therefore became an unpredictable landscape for the narrative of the stories that are told. Cardobodiesfor the Post-Apocalyptic Humanity (Spur F) and the Cardobodiesfor the Post- Apocalyptic Humanity (AV Room) were audience participatory pieces in which people were encouraged to respond to an ‘end of the world’ scenario. From these active pieces to very suddenly being stuck at home, the scale of Williams’s work has changed dramatically and the shift to digital is one that has demonstrated the ways the Covid 19 has changed all of our lives. 

Dystopia of the Mind consists of manipulations of Williams’ watercolour paintings with technology. The images have an emotional focus rather than a physical one, in the process of this, the work has superseded the social expectation of the female body and liberates the viewer from social convention. As though to expand this concept, Williams uses her Instagram account under the name @beatricevonmillhouse to promote her work. In light of Instagram’s surgical-like filters and the social pressure to display an idealistic lifestyle, Williams chooses to directly tackle the problematic nature of this platform through displaying her liberated, digitally manipulated images that do not conform to the idea of perfection that we see paraded across the social media platform. 

Or Williams, Inertia (2020)© Courtesy of the artist.

Through reclaiming the perception of her own body and encouraging others to do the same, Or Williams joins a collection of female artists who are choosing to speak up against the unrealistic standards projected onto their own bodies. We look to artists such as Jenny Saville and Kiki Smith whose work successfully reclaims the female nude, changing our perception on the way we view the female body through paint and mixed media. This move towards the digital is an exciting one, as seen in Williams’s work, technology has become a significant part of the way we view the female body and can become an influential part in the way we dismantle the notion that we have to depict ‘perfection’ online. 

Dystopia of the Mind is a confessional piece, personal to Or Williams but reflects on a wider discussion of the way we view female bodies as we hit the ‘middle-aged’ bracket. Join us on the 28th of October to delve into Or Williams’s Dystopia of the Mind (2020). From technology and feminism to the effects of the global pandemic, we are excited to discuss these important topics in relation to Williams’ thought-provoking body of work.

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