“Poses” by Yolanda Domínguez: An Interview

Tuesday, 4 October 2011



I was instantly stunned when I came across Yolanda Domínguez's “Poses” project. In her own words:

“Poses” is a direct criticism of the absurd and artificial world of glamour and of fashion that magazines present. Specifically, the highly-distorted image of women that they transmit through models that do not represent real women and that avoid all those who are not within their restricted parameters.

These images are virtually the only feminine reference in the mass media and they have a great influence in both men and women when building our roles in terms of behavior and ways of thinking.

Using these impossible stances of the fashion publishing houses as a symbol of how grotesque and unreal this industry is, a group of real women transfer these poses to daily scenes: the queue of a museum, the supermarket or the bus stop, sparking off the reaction of the spectators (on the other hand, regular consumers of these images).

The aim: to make it clear how ridiculous, and at times harmful, it can be to follow these models that the world of glamour impose on us.

-Quote from Yolanda's website.

I think this is one of the most important recent projects I've encountered. It's only when somebody directly shows you what models' poses look like in 'real life', outside of the insular frame of glossy magazines and advertising, that you realise how absurd they really are. Just the other day I was watching tv with a friend when an ad for foundation makeup came on screen. The model flounced around like a two-year old, pouted every few seconds, batted her eyelashes quite annoyingly and spoke in the most babyish tones. My friend and I looked at each other as if to say, 'seriously'? If I acted like that in real life, people would question my sanity and intelligence. I don't know about you, but I rarely imitate toddlers in my behaviour. My problem is not with the product being sold, but with the way it's being sold and the implications this has for women's self-perceptions. Yolanda questions the same thing in her project. This is what I want art to do: to unsettle us, ask questions and shake us out of our complacency.

I've spoken to Yolanda, who has kindly agreed to a small interview. I really think that the concepts and motivations behind this project are best explained through her own words, rather than mine. I hope you find this interview with Yolanda as fascinating as I do.



: : HS: Tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic background

YD: I studied Fine Arts in Madrid's Complutense University, a Masters in Art and New Technologies in the European University of Madrid and a Masters in Concept and Creation in Photography in Madrid's EFTI School.

For me art is communication, and I soon realized that painting and other traditional media are too aesthetic and their function is, in the end, just to decorate a room, so I decided to create my own strategy to reach people and communicate my concerns. Fortunately, there are many other artists also working in this direction.

I develop projects about gender subjects that question the established attitudes of women through experiences called “livings”, that are situations or settings, inserted in real life contexts, in which the spectators find themselves involved and can take part.



: : How would you describe your art?

I try to generate social criticism and a reaction handling situations that are sensitive and disturbing for the spectator. I use alternative channels to those of the conventional art circuit to reach all kinds of people, anywhere, and when not expected. Also I would say that my art touches on deep subjects, but with a little humor and irony. I think when you laugh at something you get rid of it ...



: : What’s the ‘Poses’ project all about? Where did the idea for the ‘Poses’ project come from, and what motivated you to develop such a project?

I am outraged that photographers and fashion editorials throw women on the floor, put them into ridiculous positions; submissive, dead, diseased ... I do not identify with these women and almost no woman does identify with them. However, all strive to be like them because we have no other reference. This leads to many disorders and diseases. It seems that women cannot have a wrinkle, or cannot weigh more than 50 kilos, or cannot be older than 25 years. That is not healthy or sane. The men never go out in these poses and situations. I want to send a message to all those photographers and magazines that spread these distorted images of women, that they have a huge responsibility and that they are creating the world with their images. Also, I want those who consume these images to see them otherwise.

: : How many people are involved in this project?

There were 6 actresses, 2 video cameras, a musician, me as director ... and of course all the people involved unconsciously: spectators, police, security guards, passers-by ...



: : Has there been a particular ‘pose’ that has affected you the most?

All poses I have chosen are somewhat twisted and insane. Of course not all fashion editorials put the models this way, I chose those that seemed more exaggerated. But that pattern of submissive, weak and sickly women does constantly repeat itself in the fashion world. But it's nothing new and this image of women has repeated itself for many centuries since the first paintings by artists (of course, by men).

: : Do you view your art as challenging ideas about women’s bodies?

It is very difficult to change something that has become implicit during so many years of male and female behavior. Anyone who has seen my project will probably not totally change their attitude, but it has caused him/her to reflect and see things differently. I hope that some will think twice before spilling another woman on the floor and that some will laugh in the mirror when they try to imitate those models.



: : Which artists are you influenced by? What else influences you, besides art?

The brave ones, those who create new things in any discipline, now everything is related and mixed. I love people proposing new things in design, architecture, gastronomy ... Ferrán Adria, Ai Weiwei, Santiago Sierra, Marina Abramovic, Jaime Hayón, Orlan, Banksy … an endless list!

: : Lastly, what’s your next planned project?

I cannot reveal ;) But it will soon be revealed, at any time, and any country.

: : Sounds intriguing! Thanks Yolanda.


All images are copyrighted to Yolanda Domínguez and can be found on her website and blog. Many thanks to Yolanda for allowing me to feature them here.


SJ said...

her art and message are fantastic!

it's easy to say 'well it's a magazine shoot so it's not realistic, therefore ok/the done thing' but as she pointed out, men don't pose in these ridiculous position in magazines or tv ads. sometimes you need a reminder that just because that's how it's been done for awhile doesn't mean it's right.

yelena bryksenkova said...

i love beautiful fashion editorials, and those exaggerated poses. every decade had its iconic poses - the romantic grace of the 20s, the stiff, "geometric" poses of the 1960s, and now the inverted arm/hand on hip. it's a fantasy, it complements the clothes and builds an interesting narrative around them. i don't know, i think it's beautiful, i don't feel like i need to relate to the model to appreciate it.


s a m said...

the juxtaposition against reality really shows the absurdity of the representation!

though, much art (not just that depicting women) relies on a separation from the "real" and the "imagined"

What an interesting project. Thanks for sharing it (and the insightful interview, Hila)!

Enia Is (Almost) Here said...

i think sam above me said exactly what i was going to say, so i won't repeat! but thank you hila, for a catalyst to a morning dose of thought and reflection...

FishesMakeWishes said...

i can appreciate an aesthetically beautiful and interesting editorial, i never compared it to real life. i do see the ridiculousness of some poses but if the photographer has done a good job then it's the atmosphere and mood of the editorial that diverts me from the weird posing i guess. still the images of super thin women turns me off completely, i find them so scary looking.
very interesting interview and idea, something to think about. thank you for sharing.

Amelia said...

The worst magazine pose is the dead, glazed eyed ones. I have such a problem with the idea of putting a coat of glamour on being weak, defenseless. There's a very creepy ad by Lanvin with a girl who looked stunned/dead (?) and cats around her.

Megan Champion said...

What a great post. I love fashion, I love pretty clothes and outrageous makeup, and I do love many of the creative editorials. But I hate that the industry takes these things past the point of being artistic and instead makes it a bar from which to judge people on a whole. Projects like Yolandas a a good reminder of this.

andrea despot said...

This project is so wonderful! This quote really reverberated with me:

"i think when you laugh at something you get rid of it"

Jhonatan Silva said...

bem legal!

rooth said...

How many of us have wondered how "real" people would look doing the poses we see in editorials? If anything, this exhibit is an interesting juxtaposition between the two. Thanks for sharing!

The Annachrist said...

This is too weird! haha what a great read

nancy said...

hilarious, important and poignant. thank you for sharing this!

hila said...

sj: yes, that's so true - I don't really see men posing in such positions in magazines/advertising. Usually, they're placed in these "look at me, I'm so sauve and powerful" positions.

yelena: I do understand your point, and to a certain extent, agree with you. But unfortunately, a lot of women do see the need to relate to these models. Also, there's a separate issue here: i.e. that so many of these artificial poses are also demeaning and submissive. I mean, I have nothing against artistic artificial movement to make a statement, but when it's just insulting to women, it crosses a line for me. That doesn't sit well with me, even if I do appreciate other fashion editorials.

sam: yes, I agree. But I personally think the 'real' and the 'imagined' are often in a relationship with each other, and it's not always easy or possible to separate them.

enia/maja: my pleasure sister :)

aleka: I have a theory that even if we look at some fashion editorials and intellectually, recognise they are quite separate from 'real life', psychologically, they leave an imprint when it comes to shaping our ideas about our bodies and femininity. That's why some editorials put me off.

amelia: yep, I couldn't agree more!

megan: I love the artistic, creative side of fashion too. But I don't like it being used to construct a rather insipid gender politics. I totally agree with you.

andrea: yes, I liked that line too :)

jhonatan: I wish I understood what that meant!

rooth: to be fair, the models are 'real' too :) I guess they've just been made to look 'unreal'. But yeah, you make a good point.

the anarchist: thanks

nancy: my pleasure!

the line sheet said...

Almost a year a go I was reading Vogue and just thought that the poses and presentation of the models and clothing were ridiculous. I suddenly felt embarrassed to be reading the publication. I'm sure that there is a way to present models and fashion in a better way.

Yes, sometimes artistically, there is a reason for such poses but most of the time, it's really just because it is a standard.

I think that editors and photographers need to be more imaginative and they need to evolve.

Victoria said...

Thank you for posting this, this is an issue that we need to address as a culture. Why do we expect our women to be in such painfully ridiculous positions? What's sexy about that?

Reminds me of this hysterical "men-ups" project.


Petra said...

thank you for writing about this and doing the interview. it's so rare to find a critical voice in the blogsphere.

the subject of sick and twisted female role models in today's media is important but most of the time ignored. i hope people like yolanda will start to make a difference!

See Hear Say said...

this is an awesome project. and great interview too!

hila said...

the line sheet: I completely agree with you. It is just standard most of the time, ad it's a gendered standard, which really bothers me.

victoria: thanks so much for this link, it's great! it just proves my point that there is an obvious gendered context to this all. I mean, why are these poses ridiculous and silly for men, but not for women?

see hear say/laura: thanks laura!

gracia said...

I do think I have seen Yolanda's work before and I am intrigued. I'm taking your link to her site and off to discover more.

Thanks Hila.

Alyce said...

Wow, I think there are a lot of interesting dynamics within the discussion around this project. Part of me says that fashion shoots are about fantasy and the model is being used as sculpture to bring the focus on the garment. That part really doesn't bother me when it's artfully done. However, it's the added elements that skew everything: the models being too thin, specific submissive poses used for shock value, etc. I think this is a good project and conveys a good message. The photographs that Yolanda has chosen are very tame compared to what I've seen. If you want to see imagery that is worth being up in arms about; I encourage you to watch this trailer for an upcoming documentary that focuses on this subject http://missrepresentation.org

hila said...

gracia: she's also pretty much a great lady, so browse away and enjoy her work.

alyce: thanks so much for this link, I'll watch it. And I agree with everything you've said - there's nothing wrong with artistic poses, but when they cross a certain line, or when they're evidently based on gender stereotypes, I just don't like them and can't appreciate them aesthetically at all.

la fille de la plage said...

I have to say I really love this !!
it's funny and brilliant.

hila said...

I love it too!

Harsh Reality said...

This is absolutely brilliant and a powerful statement for women. It's inspired a way for women to submit their own versions: http://reallifefashionposes.tumblr.com