Frances Goodman Interview: Beyond the Male Gaze


“Why do we remove our natural beauty and adorn it with something else?” In this short video, the thrilling South African artist Frances Goodman presents her Vajazzling Series, where the female body is empowered in an unconventional way.

“The intention wasn’t to romanticise the body.” Goodman often collaborates with other women, of which her Vajazzling Series from 2012 is an example. For the series, she searched for women who wanted to be ‘vajazzled’, meaning having their pubic region decorated with Swarovski crystals and then photographed: “What the project was looking at is the choices women make about their bodies, you know, this trend about removing bodily hair, which is actually a trend that is very influenced by the pornography industry.” The project, Goodman continues, was about questioning who women were doing this for – and if it was even a conscious choice. During the intimate and lengthy process of applying the rhinestones, Goodman also found that it became “a very interesting, confessional space,” and her ideas about why the women were doing this, she explains, were altered entirely by the end of the project. Moreover, the anonymity that the women were offered allowed them to be freer with their body, and some even started performing during the photoshoot. The photographs Goodman took of the various women, she emphasises, weren’t made for “the male gaze” – they were not iconised, nuanced, or filtered through a hazy light: “It was quite a frank eye that was looking at it.”

Frances Goodman (b.1975) is a South African artist. Goodman works with installation, photography, sculpture, and sound installations, which focus primarily on women and contemporary notions of beauty and desire. Her interest lies in female identity and the anxieties that manifest and are cultivated from the bombardment of the media as well as societal expectations and pressures. Goodman has exhibited widely worldwide, and her work forms part of numerous significant public and private collections, including the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in Cape Town. She is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. For more see: http://www.francesgoodman.com/

Frances Goodman was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in November 2019.

Camera: Klaus Elmer

Edited by Kasper Bech Dyg

Produced by Christian Lund

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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