This photo is currently on display in the Eloge du Vertige exhibition – which shows photographs from Brazil’s Itaú Collection at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie Ville de Paris (known by its friends as the MEP) until 25th March.
Itaú’s is a really rich collection of photographs, spanning the work of Brazilian artists over the last sixty years. I know very little about Brazilian art, so the exhibition was an education for me. My expectations, perhaps narrow-mindedly, included happy gatherings, bright colours, carnival scenes etc. I felt very ignorant as I walked around the dark, gloomy, gritty and often unsettling images in this show.
The works in this collection seem to fit into two camps, the first following the art movements and trends of European art, Man Ray and surrealism for example, whilst the other half are more inward-looking, artists who are either criticizing, celebrating or differentiating Brazilian culture and its artistic traditions.
This photo by Cris Bierrenbach is the cover girl of the show, used on all the marketing material and catalogues etc. I can see why, it’s an unforgettable image and one of the more universal pictures in the collection i.e. it will sell well in the gift shop. However, looking on Bierrenbach’s website his work can get a little transgressive (not for the squeamish).
Society’s concept of the ‘beautiful woman’ and the pressure on women to fit this ideal seems to be a key theme in his work, for example his video performance Identidade from 2009 which completely deconstructs the idea of makeover.
So this photograph could either be interpreted as a surreal exaggeration of a beautiful woman, a mythical eyelash creature perhaps, or it could be Bierrenbach criticising women’s quest for perfection. We’ll never discover which is true, but what I want to know is, how did he do it? I hope Photoshop is involved otherwise it must’ve been pretty painful!