Sophia Oppel

Sophia Oppel / Institutional Bodies

Institutional Bodies (2016)

2 Garments

Mixed Media on Canvas and cotton, plastic hanger.

This project was initially inspired by Andrea Fraser’s notion of the institutional body where the artist or institutional critic relies heavily on the conventions of the institution they attempt to critique: “We carry, each of us, our institutions inside ourselves.” This project manifests itself as a physical institutional body, denoting both the wide reaches of institutional expectations and the way our experience is curated through a normative lens.

Stock photos exist as commodity content which curate and frame imagery we see around us. In my rendition of stock images, we see art curated through the normative lens of western monoculture. The use of these stock photos render the artist as apart of a larger cultural institution, while highlighting the conditioned expectations of the affect of art; we are told, through the advertisements of institutional curation, how to look at and interact with a work. As expected, most stock photos depict white, able-bodied people, thus exerting an implicit expectation around art viewership and gallery culture and implying universal western canonization. Additionally, these stock images make assumptions about art gallery’s as housing wall-mounted paintings; a normative and palatable expectation of “high art”.

The ink transfers of photographs of institutions take the forms of panoramic photographs; poorly stitched together by an algorithm to create a disjointed image. The algorithm becomes a stand in for the curated interaction enforced upon viewers, causing them to have a thwarted experience with the art institution. Panoramas also denote surveillance, a state that imposes itself upon the viewer within the gallery space.

To embody these images on commodity garments implicates the body of the wearer, as well as the artist and institution as consumer product. The gesture of painting in oil on T-shirts references the vast influence of the art institution; even “low culture” items are imbued with the institution by proxy, rendering the conditioned art institution an insidious culture of control.

The manifestation of the work is physical and embodied; the viewer will want to touch the work but will be unable to due to “do not touch” signs (and years of conditioning).

Using Format