Thursday, August 24, 2006

Altered Barbie 2006

In an attempt to maintain some sort of culture vulture status JimmyD and I attended "Altered Barbie 2006" at the .Market Street Gallery, here in
San Francisco. The email invite (so graciously forwarded by the infamous 'Castro Bob') promised "a video showcase and closing reception" featuring some 'festive shorts'.

As we entered, fashionably late, "The Tribe: An Unorthodox, Unauthorized History of the Jewish People and the Barbie Doll ... in About 15 Minutes" (dir. Tiffany Shlain, US, 2005, 15 mins.) was already playing. What I did not realize, until just now when I looked up its running time, is that we saw the entire thing. I thought we had walked into the end of some odd little documentary about modern Jewish identity and didn't understand the Barbie reference, except for the irony that Barbie is something of an Aryan figure that was created by a Jewish woman, Ruth Handler. Though it seemed to be well received by the small audience of early arrivals, I wasn't paying much attention.

JimmyD and I explored the pieces on exhibit. This was hindered by the fact that the video was projected in the MIDDLE of the tiny gallery and we were unable to get around the place until it ended.
However, there were some fun, if not kitschy pieces! Finding examples to display here is a bit tricky, as it is an annual, juried show, in which the pieces are available for purchase and NOT for photographs. However, these should give you an idea. Oh, the place wasn't as PINK as these two examples might suggest.

The next short was the nearly classic "Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour" (dir. Susan Stern, US, 1998, 53 mins.), which I had seen when it premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival. This comprehensive and authoritative history of 'Barbie' is actually sort of fascinating. Ruth Handler is exhaustively interviewed and she proves to be a fascinating woman. There are also the fans, er, I mean, 'players' who range from cute to annoying to down right disturbing. Though you gotta love reminiscing about sticking M-80s to a 'Barbie' to watch her explode! I will not so guiltily admit that JimmyD and I were chuckling like the Muppets 'Waldorf and Stadler' throughout, though we did NOT disturb any of the other viewers!

The infamous (and gracious) 'Castro Bob' caught up with us in the midst of this, and he shared his favorite pieces with us, which included a FAB chess set, in which one side was made up of Barbie and Ken heads and the other was made up of Powerpuff Girl heads. hee hee hee...

JimmyD's favorite piece appeared to be the 'Japanese Diorama'.

Mine were the totally surreal portraits that were behind
'grotesque Barbie'.

(This photo doesn't do them justice.)

Overall, there were more than 70 artists represented, so it was hard to take it all in, as it required really getting in there to see the detail. Of course, I am NOT an art critic, so I would not presume to evaluate the relevance of these post-modern deconstructions of a popular culture icon, nor speculate upon the artistic significance of the 'Altered Barbie' as a legitimate oeuvre.

Maxxxxx just wants to peck her eyes out.


Sarah Louise Parry said...

I wish they would bring that over to the UK - it looks amazing!

Jay, the Angry Little Man said...

Hee hee... well, it is a nifty little collection! They are all local (San Francisco) artists, as far as I know. So, maybe you could interest a local gallery or collective and see if they would be willing to sponsor one?

Duchess Maureen said...

oooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh....Princess and I would love this. In fact dearest Mowgli the Princess used to take "parts" of Barbie (her head from keychains, her clothes, her accessories, etc) and she'd glue gun them to picture frames.! Maybe she'll make YOU one this year for Xmas.!

Princess Deb said...

I LOVED the last supper.