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.
Further examples of research can be accessed at
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.
BOOK CHAPTER: ‘The Iconography of Disruptive Bodies: Social Media and Medical Identities’ in Bodies in Flux: Embodiments at the End of Anthropocentrism (Brill: Leiden 2019)
SOLO EXHIBITION: Consumed: Stilled Lives
Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds Arts University.
12th July - 22nd August 2019
Exhibition catalogue, with texts by Dr Francette Pacteau
and Professor Mark Durden. Designed by Rabbit Hole.
Consumed: Stilled Lives examines the relation between people and objects, and the impact that adverts have as producers and disseminators of social values. Woolley is interested in how social ideals, particularly gender norms, are transmitted through commercial visual culture. In adverts, commodities are given human characteristics in order to make them more desirable. In turn, identities are commoditised and bodies become adverts for social ideals. Commodities are integrated into the consumer’s identity and their identity is shaped to a marketing demographic. We are what we consume. We are adverts for the commodities we consume. To reflect this, the artwork in Consumed blurs the boundary between portraiture and still-life, producing inanimate bodies and animate objects.
COMMISSION: New cover for historic Watermill on The Hepworth Wakefield site.
A nineteenth century watermill, situated next to the river Calder opposite The Hepworth Wakefield, is to be protected with a new building cover designed by artist Dawn Woolley and community groups from across the district.
Commissioned by The Hepworth Wakefield and funded by Wakefield Council, the artwork has been designed and produced to continue preserving the historic listed watermill.
Yorkshire-based artist Dawn Woolley, who is currently working as an engagement artist with Yorkshire Sculpture International (the largest festival to celebrate sculpture in the UK), was selected by the gallery and Wakefield Council for a standout proposal that took into consideration the merging of historical context, environment and nature. A particular focus was on the development of the wider site, including The Hepworth Wakefield Garden.
The design was developed using work produced in workshops with community groups in Wakefield, including The Hepworth Wakefield’s Art Social programme and groups from Wakefield Adult and Community Education Service. During these workshops the participants worked to create a series of sculptures made out of recyclable materials responding to the site that were then photographed and creatively arranged onto the wrap by Dawn Woolley.
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
Exhibition opening, 11th July (photographs by Hamish Irving).
In Conversation with Dr Kate Random Love, 16th July (photographs by Dr Catriona McAra and Matthew Wheeldon).
Host figures feature in different belief systems. In The Met Museum in New York a hollow Guatemalan figurine can be found – it was made in the 5th to 7th century and features a removable chest plate that reveals a diminutive spirit figure who drives the actions and intentions of its host.
The objects contained within Host Figures (They Live) also shape the thoughts and actions of their hosts: they are toys, sweets and social media symbols that promote neoliberal consumer ideologies and gender stereotypes. The title also references John Carpenter’s 1989 film ‘They Live’, a dystopian cult film set in Los Angeles during a time of extreme social inequality characterised by high unemployment and conspicuous consumption. In the film, special sunglasses enable the wearer to see the true messages of advertising and mass media: ‘consume’ and ‘obey’. Host Figures (They Live) are produced as lenticular prints that also aim to reveal that commodities influence our actions and beliefs.
HOST FIGURES (THEY LIVE)