Name: Kiki Smith
Date of Birth: 18 January, 1954
Born: Nuremberg, Germany
She is an American artist, she was classified as a Feminist artist.
Details of the art work
Materials: Wax, pigment, paper-mâché (French for 'chewed-up paper' due to its appearance), commonly called paper-mâché, is a construction material that consists of pieces of paper, sometimes reinforced with textiles, stuck together using a wet paste (e.g., glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive), is a construction material that consists of pieces of paper, sometimes reinforced with textiles, stuck together using a wet paste.
Size: 160” X 23” X 23”
In this artwork, the artist makes a female sculpture, portray in prostrate gesture, like crawling along the floor. This sculpture doesn’t wear any clothing, and we see that the sculpture has much filth on her body, especially on her buttocks. And also, this sculpture has an unusual thing is excrement; this excrement was excreted from the back of the body, with a faux tails of feces, and trailing behind her. All of these elements present a dirty woman, and this artwork tries to disgust everyone, makes audience don’t want to stand contemplating the sculpture.
What does it show?
Not being able to hide it
Many people said that it is simple disgusting after they saw this sculpture. I think my classmates also have the same feeling. The disgusting point in this sculpture is the excrement, this makes audiences feel uncomfortable and think that it is so ugly. But, according to Kiki Smith, she said that she didn’t make it out of desire to provoke.
People feel shame and humiliation when you look at this or you are in this condition, but Kiki Smith thinks that such excrements are some of our internal personal garbage, actually, which is inside our body all the time. Therefore, she tries to portray a tail of feces, and makes it belong to the sculpture, intends to said that it is apparent what we own, and the shame and humiliation of not being able to hide it.
Nowadays, western concepts of human body come from the ancient Greeks. Many Greeks’ mythologies portray ideal and perfect human bodies,
because they believe that gods took human form and which reflected the ideal and perfect beauty of the gods. Therefore, they typically portray a figurative art in complete, healthy, young and strong body, it seems that such beautiful body and perfect proportion become the norm; human should believe this and aspire to. But, when you see Kiki Smith’s work “Tale”, and the first impression is so ugly. It really contradicts with the perfection of human body in ancient Greeks, for example, in “Tale”, the gesture is prostrate, crawling along the floor, but we couldn’t find this gesture in ancient Greeks. And all human bodies in ancient Greeks are healthy and strong, but in Kiki Smith’s work, the woman seems suffer with illness. This contradiction raises a question about who defines the perfection of our human body, why it is perfect, and what is beautiful.
After you see the Kiki Smith’s work, you feel embarrassed because the woman excretes the excrement in the public area. But, the woman seems to have a problem of incontinence. This situation makes you feel uncomfortable.
Kiki Smith has made the sculpture, which is the woman who losing control of bodily process and excreting feces, this kind of body becomes a form of “grotesque”, and defies the classical concepts of body perfection. “The classical body is smooth, finished, closed, and complete, in contrast to grotesque body, which is rough, uneven, unfinished, open, and full of aperture.” Also, this grotesque body shows that our body is a biological thing, is a mortality body; our body shape and states will be changing. This reminds us that our mortal body – aging, disability, pain, illness, and death – must not be hidden. She showed an unhealthy woman directly; let the audiences think about our bodies are mortality, we must suffer in aging, illness, pain, and death. Although we are not willing to look at this sculpture but we should face it.
As we see that, this sculpture is woman body shape, what do you think if the woman shape change to a man shape? It still have the some meaning?
I think that if the shape of this sculpture change to a man shape, the main concept (the excrements are only our internal personal garbage, it must not be hidden) and the meaning of our mortal body are still here, some classmate may say that the challenging of prefect body will be distort, but when we look back to the ancient Greeks, there also have perfect body proportion (strong and tall).
Rush, Michael. New media in late 20th-century art. London; New York : Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Barret, Terry. Why is that art? : aesthetics and criticism of contemporary art. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008
Robertson, Jean, and Craig McDaniel. Themes of contemporary art : visual art after 1980. New York : Oxford University Press, c2010