My practice encompasses photography, video, installation and performance.
I use photographs of objects and people to question issues of artificiality and idealisation in relation to consumer culture and stereotypical gender representations. My research examines the relation between people and objects, and the impact that adverts have as producers and disseminators of social values. My central argument is that commodity culture turns everything into adverts, from seventeenth century still-life paintings to selfies. I consider social networking sites to be the commercial space where commodity culture invades our social interactions.
My photographic work blurs the boundary between self-portraiture and still-life, producing inanimate bodies and seemingly animate objects. I explore how and why different objects and bodies are valued in popular and consumer culture. The practical outcomes of my research include photographic and installation works, but also public interventions in physical commercial advertising spaces in cities and in virtual ones on online social networking sites.
Consuming the Body: Capitalism, Social Media and Commodification is due to be published in 2019 by I B Tauris.
GROUP EXHIBITION: Still Life: Things Devouring Time
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds.
21st November 2018 - 23rd March 2019
A group exhibition exploring consumer culture and social, environmental and sustainability issues relevant today.
Things made from non-biodegradable materials and the human inclination to collect possessions contradict the concept of tempus edax rerum, time as devourer of all things. Still Life: Things Devouring Time focuses on the visual representation of vanitas, symbolic objects that warn against excess and the shortness of time. This exhibition explores how those ideas inform the practice of contemporary artists, working in diverse media, who respond to consumer culture and the social, environmental and sustainability issues it produces today. The evolution and enduring relevance of the genre of still life is highlighted by the variety of contemporary art - photographs and objects by Nicole Keeley, Caroline McCarthy, Simon Ward and Dawn Woolley - displayed alongside historic Dutch still life paintings in this exhibition. It is co-curated by visual artist Dr Dawn Woolley (Research Fellow, Leeds Arts University), whose work explores the social value of objects in still life, from 17th-century Dutch paintings to contemporary advertising, and Dr Katie J T Herrington (Curator, Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds), and is generously supported by Leeds Arts University.
ARTICLE: Dawn Woolley and Zara Worth / [Im]moral Food, February 2019
PORTFOLIO: Dawn Woolley / Critical Clickbait: Artist Interventions in Commercial Visual Culture, December 2018
INTERVIEW: Dawn Woolley / The Substitute, April 2017, Interviewed by Anna McNay
Aberrant consumers: Selfies and fat admiration websites
Dreamers by Dawn Woolley and Davin Watne, 2018
In December I joined Davin on a residency at Wassaic Project in Wassaic, a small Hamlet upstate in New York. Wassaic Project comprises two sites for studios and project spaces in a disused mill and a disused auction mart, and a number of residential buildings that house artists all year round. Davin and I had been experimenting with optical illusions and how they could be employed as metaphors for media distortions and political biases.
The text refers to the “Windrush” and “Dreamers” communities in the UK and the US respectively, whose citizenship has been under threat of revocation by current ruling governments. The use of optical illusions demonstrates the fugitive nature of truth, by aligning the inherent biases in human visual perception with implicit social, political and racial biases in our news media. The text is installed to replicate a visual distortion illusion in which the segments of different colour text trigger a visual stimulus that is misinterpreted by the brain, leading to the perception that the columns of text and curved. The illusion a of crooked line signifies a broken promise to the Windrush and Dreamers communities.