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Self-Portrait, VBSS 03 MP

Vanessa Beecroft (Genoa 1969)

Digital e-print (edition of 10)
76 x 59 cm
1890 n. 10578

Vanessa Beecroft's work revolves around the theme of the female body, the protagonist of site-specific performance events in the form of tableau vivant. The bodies of the (usually female, more rarely male) models, sometimes clothed, and often nude, are arranged in carefully calibrated choreographies that aim to provoke reflections on the aestheticisation of reality in our contemporary world and on the obsession with perfection and a precise standard of physical beauty, exalted in the western world by consumer society and fashion.

The series of photographs and videos extend the duration of the performances, which are necessarily confined to a limited space and duration: much more than simple documentation, they are works in themselves that the artist progressively numbers with her initials and those of the project in question. In this way, VBSS refers to one of the most controversial moments in Beecroft's artistic career, the South Sudan project launched in 2005 during a trip to Darfur to film the documentary The Art Star and the Sudanese Children in an orphanage.

The artist portrays herself dressed in a long dress, burnt at the bottom. Explicitly recalling the iconography of a Renaissance Madonna, she breastfeeds two twins that she will unsuccessfully attempt to adopt. The other VBSS photographs are equally inspired by the Christian iconographic repertoire (black women with babies on their laps, male figures as crucifixes): with these images, and with the performance at the Venice Biennale in 2007, Beecroft intended to denounce the horror of the Darfur war. The project did not fail to raise doubts about the genuineness of the artist's work and also provoked some very heated criticism: the disturbing perfection of a highly polished and glossy image,remains here like a haute couture photo.

The artist donated the work to the Uffizi in 2010.

Text by
Francesca Sborgi
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