From internet trolling to thought-provoking art
Published on 10 June 2021
Unsolicited negative internet comments are at the heart of an exhibit in the University of Dundee’s Art, Design and Architecture Graduate Showcase 2021, which launches later this week
Isla Morgan (21) initially wanted her final Fine Art project to focus on celebrating the human body and all its imperfections. She started by photographing her friends, capturing their body insecurities while amplifying the body’s artistic beauty.
Unfortunately due to Covid-19 and its restrictions, Isla was unable to continue photographing friends and instead made herself the focus of her project.
When she began sharing the photographs of herself online, she received mountains of negative comments, often sexual, influencing her to change the course of her project to something completely different.
“I come from a textile and sculptural background, so I was really interested in skin textures and how artistic they are,” said Isla.
“My images are in black and white with strong lighting, so they are very abstract. The shadows and tones on the body are very artistic and remind me of rolling landscapes.
“I wanted to share them online because I wanted to keep inspiring people, but those online weren’t viewing them from an artistic gaze. It all started going a bit downhill after that.”
After posting the images, people online started leaving hateful comments. The majority of comments were left by males who Isla had no prior history with, most reacting with sexist slurs and some even sending unsolicited sexual images.
Isla began taking note of the comments and decided to incorporate them into her final-year project. Her exhibit, entitled Stripped, showcases her photographs and is accompanied by an audio file containing the negative comments she received on the images.
Although people cannot view the installation in-person, her idea was to have people stand in front of her photographs and listen to the comments being read aloud through a headphone set.
“I want people to view my photographs with an artistic and female gaze and have the audio conflict this with the gaze of those who left the comments,” Isla continued. “I hope it will make people stop, think, and maybe question things a bit more.
“It is a common issue for women to receive comments like the ones I was sent. Girls I was talking to agreed that it is a regular thing and unsolicited sexual comments are so common. I thought it was important to call these people out and start a conversation.
“For the recording of the comments, my friends and I agreed that a male voice is almost too normal for us to hear, or we expect to hear it from males. So I have recorded it myself, tying it in with the fact a lot of women have experienced the same thing.
“The main message I am trying to convey is the idea that self-respect has nothing to do with nudity, it is about what makes you happy. Women should be respected regardless of how much or little clothes they wear.”
The launch of the Graduate Showcase will be broadcast live online on Friday 11 June to students, staff, families, friends and other visitors.
The work on display will represent the culmination of years of creative development and hard work, with the website featuring expanded information on all students, including extra images and video content.
The Art, Design and Architecture Graduate Showcase 2021 is available to view from June 11 at www.dundee.ac.uk/graduate-showcase.
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