Rotliebend: Read to Deconstruct

Johanna Bruckner

Shaving the Gaze, (Bruckner watches Steckbauer) 2007, Video
The video is a digital, visual performance that plays with codes of sexuality, gender and their representations in existing systems of cultural meaning by questioning the concept of sexuality within hegemonial normative systems. It explores mechanisms of the human gaze within sexual gestures, seeking to redefine conditions representing sexuality and gender. The work aims at redefining the femme as an object of traditional male desire and the gaze that fashions femme positions and agency, solidified by media discourses and representations. I am addressing the general question of who produces cultural representations, since media representations of sexuality are a product of cultural representations, I am investigating who receives them and in which contexts. Following positions that judge sex and gender as political categories, social and cultural constructions in fact result in understanding sexuality as a human-produced category. As soon as the female is objected to the male gaze, a form of oppression takes place. The video challenges notions of sexuality that sustain power differences within normative gender systems, questioning in addition, notions of female identities within sexual acts, however judging the female as an autonomous subject that reconstructs boundaries and frameworks of sexuality.

The piece Shaving the Gaze can be at once read as a sexual act and an act of necessity. The practice of shaving as a symbol for produced “female codes” fashions forms of discourse that require normative behaviour within established normative systems, and are supported by dominant cultural readings. The piece can be read as an articulation of necessary cultural practices that are required in order to fit into Western society, and moreover symbolically expresses a brutal physical pain and a normatively male-associated practice.

The shaver and the body, both signified as a machine, strongly interact with each other in terms of producing an output that is charged by common request and symbolic capital. The process of dialoguing with each other symbolically transforms the activity into a prestigious “every day” action while purifying it within contexts of femaleness. The body, as well as the shaver symbolize in addition the disappearance of something consciously intangible, that can be achieved however through the act of shaving when read as a gesture of female purification.