Penelope Thompson - 'The Beauty Myth'

photos of Penelope Thompson performance art, 'The Beauty Myth', 2005
Penelope Thompson is an Australian contemporary artist whose work includes performance art , outdoor and indoor installation art , and interactive community art events.

Performance Art - 'The Beauty Myth, 2005'

'The Beauty Myth' was a piece of performance art first shown in Korea in July, 2005, created for the Bucheon International Performance Art Festival (BIPAF, 2005). The Beauty Myth was also performed at the Korea Experimental Arts Festival in Seoul in December, 2005 (KEAF 2005), and various other international art festivals until 2007.

Description of 'The Beauty Myth' performance

The 'Beauty Myth' performance developed out of the artist's earlier performance art and installation artworks in Japan and Korea ('Anonymous White Woman - the Empress's new clothes', 2004-5) based on the themes of women's body image and dis/empowerment. The title of the performance, 'The Beauty Myth', refers to the way women’s lives are restricted by the societal expectations for them to perform as beautiful objects. "The Beauty Myth - How images of beauty are used against women" was the title of a well-known book published in 1991 by American feminist author Naomi Wolf.

In the performance of "the Beauty Myth' the artist wears a dress which enhances her female shape but severely restricts her movements. In, fact like a classical Greek or Italian sculpture she is planted on the floor and only has one arm. The woman poses her body in appealing ways to entice a man to give her gifts.

photo of artist in Beauty Myth performance These gifts are uninflated balloons which she blows up one by one - however each one bursts or flies away, representing empty promises and broken dreams - and, like a beautiful statue, she is stuck, passively waiting, unable to fulfil her own needs. A ringing alarm clock then signals the end of her time as a 'beautiful object'.

At the end of the first performance at the Bucheon International Performance art Festival in July 2005, the artist 'escaped' from the costume, and then ran at full speed through the shopping center.

video - showing artist wearing a white dress, resembling a statue.
This action was meant to illustrate a woman expressing her power (for example, how many times has anyone seen an adult woman running by choice at full speed anywhere?). However, the artist felt that the Korean audience misinterpreted this action as the woman running away due to fear because she was no longer young and beautiful.

Video showing colorful projection on artist's body. Soundtrack of nightclub beats with chanting.
For the next performance at the Korea Experimental Arts Festival (KEAF 2005) in Seoul, the ending was changed so the woman frees herself from the costume but stays in the space and achieves fulfilment within herself. This performance was more site-specific for the nightclub venue (the basement Club SAAB) – the theme of the KEAF festival was “emptiness and fulfilment” in the space provided.

Each artist was asked to use the particular space provided as an integral part of their performance. Penelope made a psychedelic colourful video for projection onto her body with an accompanying soundtrack with plenty of bass. A spiritual theme was chosen using a colorful Sanskrit 'Om' symbol and a soundtrack of chanting, to attempt to subvert the usual way that women are looked upon in nightclubs as sexual objects.
posted 29/05/2007 by Penelope Thompson

Links to later performances of 'The Beauty Myth'

posted 13/08/2009 by Penelope Thompson

For more information or to contact the Artist

You are welcome to contact the artist via email with questions about her work. For her current location details and a list of her previous exhibitions see Penelope's Artist's Biography and CV. For more information about specific art projects see the navigation menu at the right to go to other Performance art projects such as 'The Elements', or to see Installation art, and Community art projects.
posted 13/08/2009 by Penelope Thompson
Beauty? What is that? - Beauty in itself is nothing. Andy Warhol.