Category Archives: Culture

“The Boss” in the Post-Patriarchy – Self-Promotion

Envers

“Sticking It To The Man? – The Crisis of Masculinity in the Post-Patriarchy” is the title of an article I wrote for the French journal on political culture Envers. The topic of their first edition is the concept of “the boss” (le chef), and my essay is approaching the subject from a feminist perspective. You can buy the visually stunning first edition at Amazon or Tituli.

Female Audiences and the Male Universal

I am immensely excited to see Gravity tomorrow night, the new science fiction movie by Alfonso Cuarón of Children of Men fame. Sandra Bullock plays the lead role in this picture, alongside George Clooney, and I am thrilled to see another sci-fi production featuring a female lead in an otherwise male-dominated genre. According to the director, however, not everyone was this excited about the prospect as I am. During a press conference in July he indicated that producers were pushing for a male lead instead, as “science fiction is a male-dominated genre, with a male audience that wants to relate to a male lead.”

image via shakesville

image via shakesville

This is funny, because the majority of Hollywood productions features male leads, and in my over twenty years of moviegoer experience as a woman I still managed to enjoy myself quite often. My preferences didn’t really matter; I had to relate to a male lead and managed to do so, sometimes more, sometimes less successfully. Though apparently this is an impossible exercise for some… Continue reading

France: Pomophobia in Action

Not too long ago, I wrote about how in France the enemies of equal marriage outed themselves as the truly hypocritical bullies they are, when they reacted to counter-protestors with physical violence. Since then, I am saddened to report,  the situation has worsened.

Protests and counter-protests are staged at least once a month, with impressive turnouts on both sides, while the law guaranteeing same sex couples the right to marriage and adoption is slowly but steadily moving through the bureaucratic system towards ratification. Like German journalist and blogger Antje Schrupp has said about the women’s quota: It’s coming, no matter what; it’s only a matter of time. The same can be said for equal marriage: In societies that are founded on the principles of democracy and equality, denying certain people basic rights cannot be justified and upheld in the long run. Clearly, Western democracies are at that threshold at the moment, some more than others, but all the signs point towards progress. Continue reading

The (Female) Artist is Present – Marina Abramovic vs. Maeve Binchy

clearly not an icon: marina abramovic for v magazine

I am not very familiar with Abramovic’s art. I came across her work a few times at art exhibitions and, most recently, in a news article which stated that she does not identify as a feminist, because she never felt she had to struggle more being a woman. Yet this afternoon, as part of the Meltdown Festival in London, she gave a lecture to a women-only audience at the Southbank Centre. Considering her previous comments, I can only assume that this decision came from artistic rather than political motivations. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but in any case, I was intrigued. Continue reading

The drop in the ocean, or the drop that wears away the stone? Street Harassment

I have been very conflicted about this topic for a while. Mostly, because I wasn’t sure of how significant it was in comparison to other issues, and whether this significance merited  the amount of feminist responses, initiatives and organisations that have developed over the years (Hollaback, Stop Street Harassment, Pro Change, to name a few).

Obviously, this is a problem that concerns all women, whether cis or trans, femme or butch, coloured of colour or white, or androgynous looking (even “feminine” looking men)… The list goes on. So the many responses are justified by the amount of people involved and interested in them. Clearly, we have a problem here! I guess, my hesitancy can be explained  by a perception of normalcy of the problem, resulting in more or less callous acceptance. Come to think of it, what a terrible way to live!

I am 25 years old. One can rightfully assume that I have been subjected to street harassment for over ten to fifteen years. Needless to say, it has become a part of my every-day life, a constant variable in the way I behave in public. For more than ten years I have been exposed to comments, leering, catcalling and groping, and I have learned to deal with that. I had to. Now, at 25 years old, I have graduated with honours in the art of making myself invisible in public (if I want to), but there are no rewards. The bullying continues, only now I am better at looking away, leaving, pretending to ignore it, but it has never stopped to bother me and it seldomly fails to lead to its most devious effect: I want to make myself smaller, hide inside myself, run away.

Normally, I would consider myself a strong, independent woman. I am an outspoken feminist. I never hide my political convictions. If justified, I talk back to my employers at work. I often call out people for misbehaving or making stupid remarks. And no, I am also not afraid to yell back at catcallers, when I feel safe enough. It makes me feel better about the situation, but there is nothing empowering about it. I still feel angry and humiliated, uncomfortable and exposed, and sadly, my body language in public has incorporated these fears.

On the train, I am often crouched in the corner of the seat, my legs and arms crossed, looking away. I don’t like waiting on the street; if I am early I prefer to go for a walk or “look busy” by playing games on my mobile phone. Hanging around unattended on the street is a surefire way of being approached by someone uncalled-for. I avoid making eye contact with men in public, and I try not to touch them accidentally. When men offer me anything in the street (a product, help) or want to ask me something, my initial reaction is to refuse. Immediately, my heart starts beating faster. When I go outside wearing short dresses or skirts, I prepare myself for unwanted attention.  At night, I change the side of the street in order not to run into approaching groups of men, or I avoid certain areas altogether. In my day to day life, I don’t think about the reasons for this behaviour and I don’t analyze its impact. It’s my life, my naturalized means for navigating public spaces with the least risk potential. It has become what the German blog High on Clichés calls a “second skin”.

Naturally, we all guard ourselves in public. It is the space in which we’re most vulnerable. But do men prepare themselves in this way, at every hour, every single day? (That’s not a rhetorical question; I’d really like to know.) How can it be that mere words can have such a violent impact on large amounts of people, yet there is rarely any backing from the public when incidents of sexual harassment occur (at least that’s my experience)?

The worst thing anyone can say about this issue is: “Men simply can’t help it.” It makes me feel so much more unsafe, having to accept that men are completely volatile predators. Fortunately, I know that this is untrue. Most men actually don’t harass women in the street, the same way as I don’t harass men. It would never occur to them; just like it doesn’t occur to me to yell “nice ass” at a guy with a nice ass. That doesn’t mean men aren’t allowed to look, and can’t enjoy a nice cleavage every once in a while, but there is such a thing as subtlety and simple human decency. It is something we all learn eventually, being social beings and all, some perhaps more so than others. But I believe there is a difference in how men take up public space as a matter of course, whereas women are often in a constant state of tension. I could go into the wider implications of this, but I suppose you all agree that this is a huge problem that needs to be addressed.

Nowadays, I feel like I can handle most forms of sexual harassment without being too shaken by it. But just because human beings are able to adapt themselves to most circumstances, it doesn’t mean they’re acceptable. Knowing that this behaviour is wrong and harmful is the first step to generate a culture that refuses to participate and citizens that will stand up to this injustice publicly. That this hasn’t happened yet is an outrage, but at least it’s better to be angry than scared.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, but not without checking out this awesome Street Harassment Bullshit Bingo, created by High on Clichés (translation mine):

original via high on clichés

Book Challenge

If you don’t already read Clarissa’s Blog, I hereby strongly recommend it. She writes about feminism, academia and current events and always manages to place her own unique opinion in opposition to the mainstream. Sometimes I agree with her, sometimes I don’t, but she always makes me think. She also posts what feels like three times a day, yet remains informative and entertaining.

Just like her recent post titled “30-Day Book Challenge in One Day”. And because I love books and lists and anything that resembles a questionnaire, I decided to have my own One Day Book Challenge right here on this blog. Perhaps my readers can take away some nice recommendations, perhaps it’s just for my own pleasure…

1. Favourite book

That’s a difficult question to answer. For me, it changes over time and often depends on what topics and authors I’m dealing with in my studies. But I am going to go with a book that started my love for American literature, when I read it for the first time at 15 or so: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. I have read it multiple times and I’m still not bored by it, even though the narrative is anything but original or complex. To me it symbolizes the essence of American literature: fast, in your face, (post)modern, a perfect union of style and content, yet it still has so many flaws that are exciting to discover. The book is of course influenced by Joan Didion’s novel Play It As It Lays, which is also brilliant, but I only discovered it later in life.

2. Least favourite book

Anything that doesn’t feel authentic. That reads as though the writer is just desperately clinging to their fame and reputation. Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis was such a letdown. In fact, it felt as though someone had tried to copy his style and failed massively. The whole thing made me cringe.

3. Book that makes you laugh out loud

The Liar by Stephen Fry. He is so superior with words and I love his humor for kinky intellectuals. Which reminds me that I would love to read it again, but I gave my copy to an ex-boyfriend and he never returned it. Grrr…

4. Book that makes you cry

Books don’t really make me cry, but there are those that have a deep sadness in them. Try by Dennis Cooper is such a book, but it’s not an obvious choice, and if you’re looking for something melodramatic, don’t read this. I’m writing my thesis about Dennis Cooper, so my choice is probably biased.

5. Book you wish you could live in

I don’t usually read “nice” books, so I don’t think I would want to live in any of them. If I had to pick something, I guess I could go with The Garden of Eden by Hemingway. As far as I remember it is about newlyweds who travel a lot in the South of France, and it’s hot, and they drink a lot of Pernod. That sounds pretty good to me right now.

6. Favourite young adult book

Hands down, Die Mitte der Welt by Andreas Steinhöfel. I don’t know if it has been translated into English. I certainly hope so. It is beautifully written and features homosexuality, outcasts, bullying, first love, you know, the mysteries and banalities of being a teenager. I read it for the first time when I was thirteen and I believe it changed my life.

7. Book that you can quote/recite

I have a terrible long-term memory, so I don’t think I can properly quote anything.

8. Book that scares you

Probably Macht and Rebel by Matias Faldbakken. Because in many ways it portrays my generation very cunningly, and turns out my generation is a bunch of douches. The book is very clever, but it scares me because it’s so misanthropic and nonchalant at the same time.

9. Book that makes you sick

I read some pretty sick stuff, however, none of it actually makes me sick. What makes me sick are false interpretations of books, for example people claiming that Lolita is the most beautiful love story ever written. If you think that, you might want to take some literature classes and check your understanding of love.

10. Book that changed your life

Die Mitte der Welt, but I think I am going to explain that in a different post.

11. Book from your favourite author

One of my all time favourite authors I haven’t mentioned yet: Kathy Acker. After all, this blog is named after one of the illustrations in her novel Empire of the Senseless. I wrote an essay about it in a class on dystopian literature, and it was probably the most fun essay I ever had to write, and I’m pretty sure it blew my professor’s mind, whose understanding of dystopian literature didn’t exceed the likes of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

12. Book that is most like your life

My life is not that exciting at the moment, so if there is a book out there that is like that, I probably wouldn’t want to read it. Unless it’s called “10 easy steps to have a career when you have a cultural studies degree”.

13. Book whose main character is most like you

Anais Nin’s diary and short fiction. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood.

14. Book whose main character you want to marry

As I’ve said before, most of the stuff I read is pretty grim, so I doubt I would want to get married to any of the characters in them.

15. First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

I don’t remember. As a child I used to devour books. I read probably twice as much as I do now, so no idea.

16. Longest book you’ve read

The Bible? No idea. I have a dislike for long reads.

17. Shortest book you’ve read

I guess it depends on how to define “a book”. In Germany, we have these tiny yellow Reclam editions; they make everything look very short, but oftentimes they’re really not.

18. Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

I’m never embarrassed about reading. I’m more embarrassed to say “Oh, I haven’t read that.”

19. Book that turned you on

I used to read a lot of erotica by Anais Nin and Oscar Wilde. They were pretty kinky back then.

20. Book you’ve read the most number of times

Probably Less Than Zero. 

21.  Favourite picture book from childhood

My grandma used to have these fairy tale collections from the Eastern Bloc, translated for the GDR. Those books had the most beautiful and most frightening illustrations I have ever seen. Nowadays parents would think that they were way too disturbing for little children, but I found them fascinating.

22. Book you plan to read next

I still plan to finish Simone de Beauvoir’s Le deuxième sexe. 

23. Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

The Bible, though I did read large portions of it.

24. Book that contains your favorite scene

Now, that can only be answered by someone who reads like a book a year.

25. Favorite book you read in school

Lord of the Flies.

26. Favorite nonfiction book

In preparation for my thesis I have to read Enter At Your Own Risk a lot, which is a collection of essays about Dennis Cooper’s writing. When I first read it I was a bit annoyed, because it was about the exact same things I wanted to write about (and I thought I had some pretty radical new ideas). Turns out it actually is a great help to back my own ideas without making them redundant.

27. Favorite fiction book

See number 1.

28. Last book you read

ATTA by Jarett Kobek. It is about the life of one of the terrorists who flew a plane into the WTC on 9-11. It is also full of urban critique; it is disturbing and hilarious.

29. Book you’re currently reading

None, because I just finished Christian Kracht’s 1979 last night. And if you want to know what I think about it: I am completely indifferent.

30. Favorite coffee table book

Oh, you mean those wanky, large books full of pictures that people have lying around at home to seem really cool when they have visitors? I’m sorry, but I can only give you my least favourity coffee table book: that Banksy book that at one point everyone in Berlin seemed to own…

So there’s that. I’m sure you have noticed that I am not a fan of the classics, I am heavily biased towards 20th century literature, and I have a slightly disturbing preference for gay male authors. That is another blog post right there. I’ll get on to it asap.

Feel free to criticize me for my lack of women writers, but I wanted to answer as truthfully as possible. And the truth is, that for a long period in my teenage years, which is probably when I read the most, I hardly read any women writers. I blame publishers, my public library, and most of all patriarchy!

Notes on Facebook

By now everyone should be aware of Facebook’s recent stunt: introducing Timeline, which chronicles the users’ entire Facebook past on their profiles, all the way back to their actual births. Now it will be made obligatory.

Needless to say, I find the whole idea utterly ridiculous, especially  when you look at the information Timeline users are encouraged to share: purchases they’ve made (great for companies), surgeries and illnesses they’ve had (WHY on earth would anyone want to share or know this?), loved ones they’ve lost (I wonder, can you link to their profiles? Is this the next step: a virtual cemetery for all the profiles abandoned by the dead?)…

But what I find also incredibly annoying are all the comments by clearly conservative and clueless people wondering: “Well, why are you on Facebook in the first place? No one’s forcing you!”

Of course, I am compelled to use Facebook! Sure, no one is holding a gun to my head, but have you ever heard of society? When you are a young, tech-savvy (well, I try) and well-connencted person, not having Facebook is simply not an option anymore, at least not a smart one. And I am not talking about the overreaching self-promotion of some individuals, the sometimes excessive networking and oversharing; I am talking about staying in touch, staying informed and staying connected.

1. Staying in touch: If you’ve lived in one place all your life and you have a working phone, then no, you may not necessarily need Facebook. But if you’ve travelled a lot and lived in other places (or your closest friends have), then most likely you will know a considerable amount of people you love and care about, who don’t live anywhere near you, maybe not even in the same time zone. Facebook is a way of keeping track of what is happening in your friends’ and family’s lives, when it becomes impossible to send out twenty e-mails every week. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a picture, liking a status update or sending a link to know that there are people out there who care and think about you, even when you’re not physically present. One may find that superficial; but this kind of superficiality can feel really damn good sometimes.

2. Staying informed: Well, you could read the news and use Twitter, and you probably wouldn’t miss out on much. But you may want to inform yourself not just through Facebook, but about Facebook. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t change the fact that millions of people worldwide are using it, and everything that Facebook does will affect these millions of people. So don’t be ignorant; after all, this is a world-wide phenomenon that continues to shape the world: your world as well…

3. Staying connected: Networking is my worst nightmare, probably because I suck at it. But when you’re a twenty-something looking for a job, and you have a degree in humanities, you better get into it. Because knowledge in social networking is almost a requirement these days, especially when it comes to jobs in cultural and media institutions. Plus, when you have a blog, like this one, and you actually want people to read it, Facebook is indispensible. Sending everyone e-mail updates would take too much time, and it would drive everyone crazy, who actually doesn’t care about what I write (shocking, I know). So unless you have a good alternative I need to hear about, stop patronizing Facebook users!

Just to be sure, none of this makes me a huge fan of Facebook; in fact, I find it highly problematic. And if Google+ and Diaspora finally took off, I would leave the book in a heartbeat. But in the meantime I cannot do without this tool and if I don’t like the new changes, I get to complain about them as much as I want to!

Confessions of a Movie Fan: I’m tired of androcentrism in film

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I really like movies. A lot. I wouldn’t consider myself a nerd, because my knowledge isn’t exactly academically backed and I rarely reach outside of the mainstream (except when it comes to horror), because my interest in a film is often influenced by its potential sociological and cultural impact. And so I like to keep up to date as much as possible.

Recently, however, I haven’t seen many films that I really, really enjoyed. You could blame me for my choice in movies, of course, but I obviously wouldn’t pick anything that I wasn’t at least somewhat interested in. My boyfriend and I usually make the decision together and we also watch most films together, and on average he seems to responds to them more positively than I do. You could say that we simply have different tastes, but that still doesn’t account for the fact that he is satisfied more frequently than I am, and I certainly wouldn’t consider myself more critical than him. Or am I?

Just a few days ago we discussed the film Drive that recently came out and was lauded by many film critics and friends of ours alike. My boyfriend loved it as well, so he was taken a little aback by my hesitation to fully endorse him, and he tried his best to understand why I didn’t like it.

In fact, I had liked it, certainly more than a lot of other ones that had recently been released. After all, Drive has the full package: It is thrilling, cool, sleek, stylistically impeccable, features great actors and actresses and references the 80s – what’s not to like?

lonesome dude on a mission, 2011

In the end, I just didn’t find it that original and it didn’t leave any lasting impact on me. It’s probably not a movie I would recommend to someone several months from now – because I will most likely have forgotten about it. The boyfriend disagreed, and he came up with many wonderful arguments for why this film might be relevant in our postmodern, self-referential condition. I, on the other hand, had little else to say than “I just didn’t care that much for it” and “it just didn’t resonate with me.”

After all, focussing on content over style, what’s so special about a twenty-something white dude as the lead character, a lonesome wolf, whose emotional coldness is only briefly undermined by his feelings for a young mom and her son, and who otherwise comes off as a bad-ass violent superhero (he can drive, he can fight, he’s in control) whose only emotional conflict lies in maintaining his independence versus protecting said young family? This type of lead character has been around at least since the 1930s and it has dominated much of American cinema ever since. I’m sorry, but I can’t find anything original or progressive in this uncritical depiction of a man seemingly struggling with his masculinity, but eventually repeating all of the same clichés, and not only does that make me sad, it alienates me from the movie, as it alienates me from film in general.

lonesome dude on a mission, 1946

I’m tired. I’m tired of watching male heros. I’m tired of watching male anti-heros. I’m tired of watching men do things and women watching men do things. In fact, it bores me to death. Drive has simply been the latest example.

lonesome dude on a mission, 1976

I’m sick of having to identify with support roles. I want women to be the center of attention at last, with everything that entails, the good and the bad. When do we get to be powerful, corrupt, invincible, vulnerable, cold and rational, or criminally insane? When do we get to be mothers who fail, daughters who disappoint, lovers who disappear? I know there are wonderful cinematic examples for all of these, but they are just too rare to really have an impact.

Lead characters can sometimes develop iconic qualities. They can set the standards for idealized versions of us, for better or for worse. They can also show us how we’re wrong. But only if we are in fact represented. As a woman represented in film, I find myself reduced to fewer versions, fewer options in life. I find it hard to conceive of myself apart from my relation to a man. I find myself idealized or demonized only in relation to men. I would like to think that this didn’t impact my life in reality but I believe it does. Movies are about imagination and if we cannot imagine women as leading figures and independent personalities on film, how can we imagine them in real life?

I am not asking to always show women as fully developed characters in positions of power and responsibility, who only make good and healthy decisions, because that’s not what all women do, that’s not what all men do. I simply demand to exist in film as a group of individuals that make up half of the population and not as the inevitable trope, supporting the image of a system that puts us in the passenger seat. I want to see women Drive.

I’d watch that movie. And I might even like it.

déjà-vu?

Online Dating in France: more (or less) progressive than you might think

Dating is hard, but it can also be a lot of fun. By dating I mean meeting and getting to know people one is interested in sexually and/or romantically. Young people generally do this by going to bars and clubs, meeting people at work, at university or through shared interests and hobbies. However, this doesn’t work for everyone, for example those too shy to approach someone in public or those who feel they are too old to go clubbing. Some just don’t want to take any more chances when it comes to going on dates with people, and they’d like to have a bit more information about their object of desire before risking a tête-à-tête.

That’s when online dating became the latest fad. In the beginning people had a hard time admitting that they had a profile on one of those dating websites. The general belief was that only socially aberrant freaks and other hopeless cases would have to resort to such “desperate measures”. But lo and behold, online dating is more popular than ever and has lost much of its sad reputation. One of the most popular dating websites today, OK Cupid, claims to have 7 million active users to date; that means literally 7 million users to date.

But online dating also has its downsides, especially for heterosexual women. I would estimate that about 90% of the men who get in touch with a woman online are total creeps, sexual harassers and misguided “pick-up artists” (yes, I know, the latter is a tautology). And that is not based on the woman simply being not interested, but on the completely uncalled-for messages, for which there are many wonderful examples on the internet.

And so the French, no strangers to chauvinism and misogyny, especially when it comes to dating, came up with a great idea: Let’s have women decide who gets to contact them for potential dates. The concept is fairly simple: every man and woman on the dating site gets to check out the profiles of everyone else; however, while women can send the men messages to evince interest, men are only allowed to “launch a charm” (lancer un charme), to which women may react or not. The dating site is called AdopteUnMec.com (AdoptAGuy.com for Americans) and functions as a virtual supermarket where women can “buy” men by dropping them in their shopping carts. (Yes, the capitalist analogy is quite blatant.)

So far, so interesting. Even though the page’s pink design and supermarket idea are not exactly original, the concept of leaving women in charge of the pick-up may be very appealing to both men and women. Men have less to worry about finding interesting things to say to impress the women, because they already know that the woman who contacts them is at least interested in their profile. Women on the other hand will feel more at ease in an environment that allows them to be in control of who gets to interact with them. That is, not ALL women.

Unfortunately and quite surprisingly, Adopte Un Mec has failed to acknowledge that not all men and women out there are interested in dating the opposite sex. The entire concept is obviously designed for heterosexuals, but I don’t see why it has to insist on it exclusively. After all, users can search for non-smokers, vegetarians and bisexuals, just not of the opposite sex. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great to see women in charge, but why not try some more inclusive options? For example, men and women who identify as homosexual or bisexual could be allowed to message people of their own sex freely. I understand the difficulty of adapting a concept that is based on gender difference to a more heterogeneous clientele, but it seems to me that there has never even been the attempt.

The advertising is clearly directed towards men looking for hot girls, which appears to contradict the whole idea of inverting the objectification. What may have been subversive in the 80’s feels a little too “postfeminist” to me now. As a woman signing up to Adopte Un Mec, the first thing you are asked to do is decribe yourself and state what you are looking for in a man, the same way that you would describe what you look for in a new dress or a handbag you intend to buy. The idea of woman as customer and man as product doesn’t sit well with the feminist online dater, who is looking first and foremost for an egalitarian relationship. Perhaps Adopte Un Mec is not the best online dating service for the truly progressive single, but then again, if I was single I’d probably use it, if only for lack of better alternatives…

Representing Rape Culture – The Dangerous Art of Rafal Karcz

Trigger Warning!

The latest series of works by the Polish artist Rafal Karcz is called “I wanna kill Cindy Sherman” – is it a coincidence that he references a female artist who has been viewed time and time again as a feminist icon problematizing the relation between woman as object and female subjectivity?

cindy sherman "untitled #86" (1981)

Karcz’ entire series (you can find some images here) is rather eclectic: dark, yet rich colours, hip content, psychedelic imagery, some of which could easily be found projected onto the walls at a VICE party. But some of the pictures stick out as more unusual, more disturbing and more revealing of an implicit critique the series may offer, a critique more direct and palpable than the questioning of “the mentality of the contemporary human being and the condition of his emotions“.

all art by rafal karcz "i wanna kill cindy sherman" (2011)

The images I am referring to are seemingly blurry, grainy pictures of young women drunk and/or passed out on the floor, at parties, in bars… These women are clearly the objects of the gaze; the spectator cannot help but become a voyeur at best, an attacker observing his or her prey at worst. It makes you feel uncomfortable, to say the least. Because these women, in their state of vulnerability and defenselessness, are not simply the victims of their own inebriation. They do not exist in a vacuum. They exist within a rape culture that identifies them as the potential victims of sexual assault. The “shot-on-a-cell-phone-camera” aesthetic only adds to this eerie atmosphere of an impending violation. As the observer, you have become complicit and you feel caught, but you cannot prevent your imagination from pursuing the sad narrative to its potentially cruel outcome.

But the damage has already been done. In capturing their lifeless bodies, the women have been turned into objects and anonymous victims. The potential for self-invention and subjectification, which Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits do allow for, has been erased.

Karcz used specially mixed acid-based chemicals to distort the photographs he took on his cheap digital camera – and to kill the “Cindy” in the pictures: the object-like human figures caught in the moment but taken out of their context. To me, however, it seems he channelled Sherman in a different way; in capturing woman as an object of desire and violence, in a constant state of vulnerability – a constant reminder of the dangerous world we unfortunately live in.

Many thanks to Rafal Karcz for providing these images.