Artefact 2.. Natural beauty

(click on highlighted words/ phrases)

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The text which was sent 24 hours before the experiment took place.

As soon as we were given the stimulus of ‘Beauty’ I automatically thought of ‘Natural beauty’. The question is now what does it mean to be naturally beautiful? I tried to look up a tangible definition for this commonly used term but then I realised that the term is way to subjective to have an overarching definition. Which was great because this meant that whatever project we produced the results could be inconclusive and ultimately subjective. It also geared me up to be open to various ideologies, and thought processes that I would encounter during the task. We later expanded on our idea of ‘Natural beauty’ and thought it would be interesting to look at this notion through the eyes of complexion. Our first idea was to do a short visual piece with different females, with contrasting complexions shouting out the negative physical things they have been called then flip the narrative by having females with conflicting complexions say the things they love most/ envy about the other females. It was going to be a very abstract and powerful piece. The main reason for not following through with this is because we had fears that the artefact would become to cliche and predictable depending on how honest the females were. After watching various clips on Youtube on beauty within complexion I came up with the idea of doing a social experiment where we would place 3 females, with 3 different complexion in a controlled environment and ask them very personal questions to understand their thoughts on natural beauty and whether they would differ depending on what complexion they are or if it would have similarities. So first of all we came up with an overarching question or objective to base the experiment on which was ‘to see how complexion changes the perception of natural beauty’. We then watched various social experiments online such as the Blind man honesty test and Do you think your attractive? to give us some insight into how to formulate these sorts of experiments along with the codes and conventions to guide us through the production process taking into account that our project would be slightly more intimate. We then carefully hand picked the females and gave them minimal information on what the experiment was going to entail. We gave very strict instructions and didn’t speak in detail about the context of the project in the aim to produce authentic responses. The questions were designed to probe and get the females to really think. i.e ‘Are you comfortable in front of camera?’, ‘How beautiful do you think you are?’. These sorts of questions leave you a bit isolated which is exactly what we wanted as this causes discomfort and venerability. Which often tears back layers and exposes the truth in my humble opinion. Seeing the girls react to be being asked to remove their make-up was also very interesting, it gave a big indication to who was really comfortable and what personalities the females have. Even though the production team consisted of all males which must have been daunting for the female subjects we called in another black female to ask the questions, to take the edge off proceedings and to give the females some sort of alias. Although we instructed her to be blunt and formal to reinforce that this is a social experiment and that this is a serious and relevant topic in today’s society. On entry I briefly spoke to all the females separately telling them what I expected of them i.e full and informative answers, and an open subjective mind. As they entered the controlled space music was playing and the room was fairly dark.  All the subjects had to listen to the chosen song which was Indie Arie’s – Get it togetherThe song encaptulates some real thought provoking lyrics for example ‘…You wanna heal your body, You have to heal your heart’. The aim of this was to get the females to relinquish any other distracting thoughts which could deter them from fulfilling the social experiment apropiately and I think this worked.

Breaking down the production values:

  • We had three cameras whilst shooting. Camera 1 which was the centred mid shot. This shot is the most beautiful shot in my opinion it is well lit and gives the illusion along with the white background that we are in some sort of distant world. Camera two was almost the ugly shot in some regards. It was a low angle side profile of the females. It was carefully lit to make all the females look like they have the same complexion. To show that even though they are different they have this natural link that connects them all together which is the fact we are all humans. The third establishing shot was to give the audience a wake up call that even though it is a social experiment it is also a construct. Along with the fact this part of the codes and conventions.
  • The voice over was used to explain and introduce o the audience what was going on which again is apart of the codes and conventions.
  • Our use of music was criticised during the feedback section of the class seminar. I agree that the music needed to be remastered along with the subjects audio so it is not over powering, although I think the music helps the piece. In my opinion it wakes you up to the harsh reality of what the females are saying. It gives the piece some sort of tempo which I love and it helps give the audience clues into how they should feel at certain times. People may accuse of vein manipulative and I agree. We are but I feel like we need to to enhance the severity of the subject.
  • We kept the edit very simple, it was a very peeled back and transparent view on proceedings which again apart of the codes and conventions.
  • Lastly the subtitles was used to emphasis what the subjects and the interviewer were saying. I also think it adds a level of seriousness to proceedings and fits in with the house C & C’s.

Whilst reading Naomi Wolf’s ‘The beauty myth‘ I learnt that even the ‘liberated women of the first world’ were ‘ashamed to admit that such trivial concerns—to do with physical appearance, bodies, faces, hair, clothes—matter so much'(pg. 9) . From this very small and inconclusive social experiment and prior readings I feel as if females still have many issues around this topic of feeling beautiful only in the 21st century there are many more ways of dealing with it i.e make-up. I feel like Beyonce’s – Pretty hurt’s encapsulates the sorts of issues females deal with. This video also helped to expand my thought process and helped me to come up with the questions used in the experiment. From an article published in 2012 in ‘The washington post’ Marita Golden ‘The color complex — or, put simply, the belief in the superiority of light skin and European-like hair and facial features — is, among African Americans, a legacy of slavery.’ I feel like slavery and complexion still has an affect on the 21st century without us explicitly knowing. It’s something we shy away from but there has to be a reason why most talk show hosts, personalities, and successful figures tend to be fairer in skin complexion, especially when you focus in on the female population. There has to be reason why bleaching creams are so popular surely? Article on bleaching creamsAnd also why the faces of asian and african countries are normally a misrepresentation of the actual population, they tend to use fairer females as they view them as prettier and more sociably understanding. So it was no surprise to me that the darkest female in our experiment refused to take off her make-up but the fairer females did. Again our experiment was not big enough to gage a conclusive answer and we will probably never get one but it is a strong indication that there is truth to these theorises.

Through reading Maya Angelou’s ‘Hey black child’ poem I felt inspired and moved to rewrite and articulate the questions we conjured up for the experiment. I wanted to imbed each question with the power words and meanings of the poem mentioned. I then later stumbled across a 3 year old girl by the name of Pe’Tehn Raighn Kem who recited this powerful poem . Which for me took this already amazing piece and gave it more meaning and context. It was as if this little girl had seen years and years of oppression in black people and felt the urge to give her ethnic group a much needed wake up call, which is remarkable at the tender age of 3. Hammond Oglesby,professor of social ethics and theology at Eden Seminary in Missouri said ‘Black families are the important center of values for black children…One’s guardians should be available as a resource for guidance and for instilling a positive self-worth’. Following up on this statement I believe that if this mentality and mindset was drilled into teachings, upbringings, culture and society we won’t have as many broken and insecure females who hide their perfect imperfections through make up.

To conclude during the feedback from our lectures we began to speak about ways we could enhance and build on artefact 2 for artefact 3. Changing variables like the questions, the amount of subjects, the gender of the subjects, the environment to gather a deeper understanding. We spoke about focusing more on colourism and how this affects females as oppose to natural beauty. All this means is that the research is going to continue. Great! But honestly this project has arisen issues which i didn’t really see as issues which is always good.

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