Powder Room examines the recent boom in plastic surgery in Korea and its underlying psychological impulses. The artist, as creator of TOKI, takes over the role of re-defining and re-creating a female form to fit the requirements of the desirable body promoted by advertising and the media. Such images conventionally draw on white or Eurasian models thus promoting a western ideal of beauty that can only be achieved by Korean women through extreme modification. Using a 3D modelling process, Lee challenges the existing male dominated fields of both plastic surgery and 3D animation. TOKI goes under the knife to expose the radical surgical procedures undergone by women in order to achieve an ideal beauty.
The artist examines the psychology behind the obsession to be beautiful, young and perfect, questioning the myth of technological perfection and by association, the contemporary obsession with bodily transformation. Beauty is now is a mass-produced commodity that can be purchased. Plastic surgery is as accessible and as readily undertaken as a trip to the powder room or hairdresser: it has become normalised.
This project explores the motivation, driven by mass media and advertising, that propels such a huge number of women to undertake invasive surgical procedures. Lee also questions the changing perception of Korean women’s bodies, by both men and women, where beauty has become less a vanity than an actual requirement of decorum. The mirror-like screens in the powder room evoke both projection and reflection. The soundtrack includes Korean pop songs.
Powder Room (2005) is part of an ongoing series of the TOKI/Cyborg Project: game, pop and cyber world. It focuses on the creative process of computer game design and explores the link between popular culture and new technology’s role in content and production.
The digital protagonist TOKI stars in her own video game, which challenges boy game culture and creates new relations between images, bodies, identities and artefacts through the media in relation to girl game culture. In so doing it provokes questions about relationships between the body and technology, male and female, and inner and outer states. The artist presents an awareness of powerful gender stereotypes whilst acknowledging that eroticism and sexuality are important dimensions in life. Global western values of ideal body form, shape, and beauty are dissected in a critique that involves cybernetics, plastic surgery, aesthetics, ethics, genetics, gender power relations and identity.
Powder Room uses hyper-realistic and illusionist computer graphic tools to create a dialogue about the relationship between technology, hyper reality and female issues. The goal of photo-realistic computer graphics – to make the medium disappear – is subverted by showcasing the process and tools of construction, also seen in Super Toy (2004). It exposes the automated tools and mathematical principles that become the surrogate for artistic equipment, highlighting the artificiality and constructed nature of all graphic 3D images.
Notes: 4 screen 3d animation installation and sound, approx 6mins each.
Director: Hye Rim Lee
3D animation: Rachel Copp
Sound engineering: Jeffrey Holdaway
The project was funded from Screen Innovation Production Fund, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission Courtesy the artist, Starkwhite Auckland and Kukje Gallery Seoul