Consumed: Stilled lives - Perth

Woolley, Dawn ORCID logoORCID: (2021) Consumed: Stilled lives - Perth. [Show/Exhibition]


This body of artwork, comprises photographs, pop-up display banners, and site-specific artworks made for commercial advertising spaces in Perth. Woolley’s artwork is a feminist critique of consumer culture. She examines contemporary consumerism and the commodified construction of ideal gendered bodies. Artworks employ the visual language of adverts, magazines, and tv programmes in order to examine representations of gender and expose the stereotypes they reproduce. Sculpted objects – made with a variety of materials including concrete, rubbish, blancmange, and rotting meat ¬– function as portraits of different types of consumer. We are what we consume. Consumed: Stilled Lives plays with the traditional concept of still-life painting, which grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Often featuring silver plates and expensive foodstuffs, still life paintings became a fashionable way for the Dutch and Flemish to illustrate their wealth. When interpreted using emblematic symbolism the paintings represent a conflicting relation with material wealth. By interpreting the paintings ironically and applying the method to her own practice, Woolley produces still-life objects that suggest contradictory relationships to contemporary consumer culture. Drawing on her research into advertising on social networking sites, and her writing that hypothesises selfies to be adverts, Woolley examines the impact that adverts have as producers and disseminators of social values. The artworks explore social ideals, particularly gender norms, and how they are transmitted through commercial visual culture. In adverts, commodities are given human characteristics in order to make them more desirable. In turn, identities are commoditised and bodies become adverts for social ideals. Commodities are integrated into the consumer’s identity and their identity is shaped to a marketing demographic. We are what we consume. We are adverts for the commodities we consume. To reflect this, the artwork in Consumed blurs the boundary between portraiture and still-life, producing inanimate bodies and animate objects.

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