Body image and the human

So I have been thinking a lot about body image lately. I saw this amazing mixed reality performance at CSU Long Beach on Sunday night. The artists, are also in Second Life, and have performed mixed reality shows before. This particular one called “Technesexual”  by Elle Mehrmand and Micha Cardenas- Is a live mixed media reality performance, in which the artists kissed in physical and virtual space. Biometric sensors monitored their heart rates, creating audio which was sent into Second Life, linking their physical bodies to their virtual avatars. (Taken from their description). The artists, were fearless. technesexual'I was in awe. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Every now and then I’d look at the screen and see the pulsing from their beating hearts through the green radar above their heads, but all I could think, is how much I envied them for being so fearless. I wondered if I could do this. If I could be so brave to stand in front of a crowd of at least 30 people dancing, kissing, crying, laughing, talking.. etc, in virtually nothing. I have had so much fear in my life lately, I was jealous.

It really got me thinking about body image and self esteem. Personally, I have struggled with both for a very long time. Having an avatar in Second Life who has the “right” Proportions (ideally according to the media, and what I feel I should look like) I thought would help me in the real world. It has I have said, that Gracie Kendal, is an idealized version of myself. A friend said, “no that isn’t right, you would be putting your real self down then. You are just as beautiful in real life as Gracie is in Second Life.” I have a hard time seeing that. I don’t know if its because of the media’s construction of beauty that has been pushed on me for so long or criticism from people close to me. All I can remember since I was young is being concerned with body image. I see people around me today, men especially who gawk and drool over the “model” type women who come across their path. And I know, I KNOW that I would never want a guy who was that shallow anyway, but instances like that can be very depressing. When for so long one is disregarded, because they aren’t beautiful visually… I don’t know.

Anyway, as my art gets more personal, and I start to focus on identity, especially mine, you will see a lot more musings of my life as a human and an avatar…and the connection between the two. My mixed reality.

"The Virtual Possibility of Life in the Mind of Somone Living"

"The Virtual Possibility of Life in the Mind of Somone Living"

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11 thoughts on “Body image and the human

  1. I believe that most of us struggle with body image. I certainly have until I began reading a book called Love Your Body, Love Your Life
    (author Sarah Maria). The book is helping people learn to improve their
    body image by creating a body and a life that they love through a proven 5 step process. It has helped me to experience myself as beautiful, powerful, and in charge of my own life. It’s very inspirational!

  2. Gracie, I too struggle with body image in TAW (the actual world, as I like to call it), and SL. My original avatar, used for the past two years, was an emaciated, elongated version of my too thin teenage self.

    I have recently created an avatar shape that is more appropriately proportioned for an actual, normal human figure. As a result, I look too short, and not busty enough, or long-legged enough, to fit in with the SL “ideal” woman. Why must this feeling of needing to be perfect follow us even into virtual worlds? What has our society done to us, most especially to women, it seems, when such a high premium is placed on physical perfection?

  3. It is a tough world where society draws a picture of us as they want to see us, not necessarily as we see ourselves. There are many shallow people in this world and for them they can continue the hunt. We are as we are. We struggle to find a happy medium in the way we wish ourselves to be. We have to be happy with ourselves to be happy with everything else. This at times has been and is a challenge for practically all of us. It is all a balancing act of the pressures of life, society and social acceptance. 🙂

  4. Good posting, Gracie, on a fascinating subject. We as a culture are very messed up about body image; virtual worlds let us play with it in ways that I’m sure can both help and get us even further messed up!

    My own AV is certainly idealized; boy Dale has a pronounced six-pack and no muffin-top 🙂 and girl Dale, while not tall or leggy or huge-busted, is also pretty darn fit-looking. What effect does this have on my own body, how I take care of it, how I feel about it? The jury is still definitely out. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts, and seeing more of your work, about this stuff.

    (“Betty” seems to be some kind of weird astroturf spammer; see for instance “http://www.backtype.com/url/www.twitter.com%252fbookwormplace”.)

  5. Hi Gracie, thanks for writing about our performance. You’re so generous! I’m glad you liked it.

    But I’m very sorry you felt that way about the way that body image played out in our performance. Surely, I don’t have the ideal feminine body. I think that western beauty standards are totally unrealistic and shaped by the media and are the cause of untold amounts of suffering everyday.

    But what’s interesting to me about SL, is a statistic I’ve heard in lots of places like this one: “80% of women say that the images of women on television and in movies, fashion magazines, and advertising makes them feel insecure. ” [http://www.teen-beauty-tips.com/body-image-statistics.html] versus the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction lab which said that 30 seconds with a “more attractive” avatar made people feel more confident. So what are we really doing in SL?

    I don’t think there are any easy, concrete answers, and that’s what our performance is about, exploring the spaces between realities, experimenting with them, looking closely at them.

    I hope that people came away from our performance feeling positive about their own sexualities because another big part of why I’m interested in that performance is to think about the way that SL can be a space for doing something new, outside of the standards of everyday life. If it can… That’s part of the motivation behind the name, technesexual, thinking about a new kind of sexuality augmented with technology…

  6. by the way (you don’t have to approve this comment but gmail is being totally flaky right now) do you have any more photos? do you use flickr? can we see them? we only have really blurry photos without flash where you can see the projection, like the one on my blog, so even a bigger version of the one poster here would be super helpful! thx!

  7. Thank you so much for a great post Azdel!! Yea, I totally agree about images of women in the media making us feel insecure. It’s awful, how the media brainwashes us, almost rendering us unable to think any other way or wanting to think any other way. I think when I first started in SL, I may have felt more confident through my avatar, but now, its funny, my avatar seems to mimic my own feelings, no matter what she looks like. I believe my own insecurities are projected through her, especially in the way I talk. Luckily I am aware of this and am working to remedy it, but as you said, there are no clear concrete answers to any of this. We all hold the key, the power to think how we want and change who or what we are/want. Second Life gives us an easier outlet, but really people do that all the time in real life, look at plastic surgery, and of course the artists who have plastic surgery to look like barbie, or Orlan who has changed to look like “The Birth of Venus.” It’s very complex, and can be very overwelming, but sooo interesting think think about and dialogue about.
    I love your ideas of SL being a space for doing something new. Your performance and Lynne Hellers “Dancing with Myself” (check it out if you havent, it’s on youtube”) are just amazing to me. I really look forward to hearing what you are going to do next… We will talk soon about the panel!!! Thank you so so much :)))

  8. hi there… i just want to say i really appreciate the work you are doing……

    i was also wondering about if there could be some kind of unification/integration between the two of you…. and perhaps it could be a trajectory of sorts??? i have also for years had issues with my bodily image as well (as probably most women do!)(i also went to CSUN for my undergraduate work in art). i’m just thinking right now, what if you were to have some sort of physical regime, in addition to the disapline of your documentation and all, to try to merge your real body with that of your ideal (Avatar) and or have her look more like how you look now (i only mention the other way first because it could only make you healthier physically and feel better mentally )??? Just a thought.
    i wish you great revelation and ever growing strength,
    sabrina

    • Sabrina,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I actually am going to work on a physicaly regime. In fact that is kinda gonna be my next post explaining that. I would rather look more like Gracie, then her like me. But that has to do with my self esteem/self confidence issues that I’m dealing with. I wouldn’t want to change the way she looks at all. Its really strange how I feel more comfortable in her body. And that is why I’m exploring this :)) Thank you so much. I really look forward to hearing more suggestions. I value that more than anything. Thx for your support :)))

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