(click on highlighted words/ phrases)
So following the success of artefact 2 and feedback from our lecturers we decided to expand on our idea of natural beauty in complexion and move more into the need to be lighter and natural hair in the black female community. We spent days working on how we were going display this topic in a create way which would trump our previous project. Our initial ideas were as followed;
- 1) Morphing nude female subject who changes complexion. This accompanied with hurtful words which have branded on black females for years. (Pros – visual appealing, very creative, original / Cons – very hard to shoot, need a green screen, practicality, subject would have to be nude)
- 2) Poetic piece with different females miming the lyrics on screen. (Pros – deep, in-depth, visually appealing, simple / Cons – simple, done before)
- 3) Social experiment where we get females to watch a clip then answer questions on the topic. We then get males to barge into the discussion and interrogate the females to see how they react and to see the power shift between the two genders. (Pros – Very insightful, interesting debates, shows emotion, could be conclusive, academic / Cons – could get heated, repetitive, hard to shoot, hard to light, could go wrong)
If you haven’t guessed by now we went with idea 3 for numerous reasons but most importantly because it was the idea we connected with the most. So we began to draw up the questions, contacting willing subjects, planning the production and conjuring up the over arching topic/ statement which was ‘How have black females conformed to the westernised notion of beauty in the media?’ (through complexion, hair etc). We then created a thought provoking video to show the females on entry of the social experiment. This video consists of images displaying the change of looks of black women in the media over the years, the audio has been dubbed from a youtube video of a man angry at Wendy William’s for slaughtering Viola Davis for wearing her natural hair to the Oscars. Saying her hair doesn’t look ‘formal and proper enough’. I then went further to research why a women who has proudly worn wigs before decided not to wear one at the biggest stage of her life and here’s what she said ‘I took off my wig because I wanted to step into who I was… I felt like every time I put on a wig I was apologising for who I was…and I think the Oscars was a perfect time to show that (who i’am)‘. I personally feel It was amazing and brave for her to wear her natural hair simply because of how many people have been conditioned to think but also because of the negative backlash she knew she would receive. Following artefact 2 I have learnt that many females don’t feel ‘beautiful’ without make-up, and now I’am learning this is the same without wigs and weaves but why is that? These are the sorts of questions we long to find the answers to. After this we told the females to sit down in their respective seats and then proceeded to ask the questions which they would then discuss amongst themselves. We again chose a black female to ask the questions to help make the females feel as comfortable as possible, but then also positioned her away from the circle of subjects in the aim to prevent them from getting attached, and using her as a scapegoat. We asked questions like ‘How do you feel the image of black beauty in the media has changed over the years?’ and ‘Why do you think lighter is considered better?’ Some of the responses were amazing, some heart breaking, and many controversial. It was interesting to monitor body language, and the change of mood and tension in the room. Slowly but surely each female began to come out of their shells as time passed. You could clearly pick out who was confident, who was holding and back and who was overwhelmed by the whole experience which is important when analysing the success of the project. Within the whole process the social experiment began to get lost and it slowly turned into a focus group which enabled us to gather a deeper understanding, so we let the females express themselves and tell us how they really felt. For many it was a real stress release. ‘it was a real stress release to get that off my chest, ah that felt good’ (Mofe a female who took part). The interviewer attempted to keep the subjects on track but due to the sensitivity of topic it spiralled and turned in any other direction.
Recently in our 305MC module we learnt about the panopticon. Which is a type of institutional building designed by the theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. It was built so that the guards had a complete 360 degree view of all the inmates. This helped to enable complete surveillance and control of the inmates. A theorist by the name of Moya K. Mason spoke on Michel Foucault ‘Panopticon’ theory by saying ‘Suitable behaviour is achieved not through total surveillance, but by panoptic discipline and inducing a population to conform by the internalization of this reality’ (Foucault and his panopticon). This is similar to how we positioned the subjects in a panopticon style within the social experiment. The circular circumference made sure that every person talking could be clearly seen as the power shift swung around the room. We as the production team automatically assumed authority as we were filming the whole discussion. This acted as surveillance to produce ‘suitable’ behaviour.
The real Power and control element took place in the second part of the social experiment. ‘Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away’ (Michel Foucault,1978, pg.94) For me this quote from Foucault is almost insinuating that everybody has power, and if you don’t it’s because you let it get away from you. So I carried this notion and mindset into the experiment. Knowing that the female subjects have the power but whether they would exert it or not was another issue. So we got two black males to barge in on the females mid flow and instantly you could feel the room change. We previously warned the females to ‘Carry on no matter what happens’ prior to the project but you could tell this wasn’t easy for some. The aim of this was to see if the males could inflict their power and control over a group of females even though they were the minority in number. The questions that began to flood through my mine were Would the females falter? Could the males take complete control of the discussion? Could they infuriate the female subjects? Who would come out dominate?. Before they made they’re spontaneous entrance I prepped the guys relaying instructions such as ‘be aggressive, argumentative, and pick on loose unsure comments’ which they did. They pestered and hurried the females asking ‘Do you think I look at you differently (due to your complexion)?’ the female replied ‘Yeah I do?’ then (JD) said condescendingly ‘Are you asking me or telling me?’ this quick and some what cheeky reply put (Mofe) on the back ropes until another female (Whitney) struck back assertively saying ‘…because your the same boy that says you like natural girls, but in the club you will be going for the girls with the heaviest contour’ (referring to excessive use of make-up). This response took the guys back as they were shocked by (Whitney’s) use of tone. From an analytical point of view it was interesting to see how all the females cheered and laughed at her strong comment almost like saying we are level on scores now and we’re are not push overs, showing their strength and power through unity. (JD) then replied under his breath to his accomplice ‘wow there’s a lot of animosity in the room’. Reading into his reply, for me this was him admitting that they caught him out there and also that his aim to assert power and control over this group of young educated women was going to be a difficult and tactical affair then first imagined.
Whilst reading about the enslaved black people of America to gather more in-depth information into why black is looked at as inferior I stumbled across a book called ‘Killing the black body'(pg. 121) by author Dorothy Roberts which is simply breath taking. She said ‘The position of black women as the poorest segment of American society has placed them closest to state mechanisms and agencies which continuously violate the very principles of liberalism so important to the more privileged members of the mainstream society’. To put this into context she was referring back to the early 1960’s in America, although from speaking to the females in artefact 3.0 you can still feel the traces ‘violation’ and a lack of ‘liberation’.
To summarise this experiment/ focus group or what ever cool term you use to describe this artefact was exciting, stimulating, inconclusive and a great follow up from artefact 2. I say inconclusive because I feel there are many questions we will never be able to acquire the full and complete answer to. For example ‘Why is lighter considered better?’ our aim is to simply stretch and evoke minds to become more aware and encourage people to challenge these sorts of stigmas. Looking back on the footage from this experiment we as team were not completely satisfied with the production values. We had difficulties lighting all the subjects sufficiently due to social experiment element. I also feel we had less power and control when filming in comparison to artefact 2 which is ironic as our stimulus words were power and control. We almost just had to sit back and watch the constructed events take place. So this meant at times the discussions went off topic. We have now decided to use this artefact as primary research for another artefact we are going to construct in the coming days. For me almost starting from scratch is brave and risky but surely this is what research and development is all about. Building on past successes and creating something which is better and well informed. We can’t wait to show you artefact 3.1 (Part 2) Stay posted.