Behnaz Farahi’s ‘Return the Gaze’ Performance Piece Showcases Her Responsive Materials
The concept of the male gaze, not simply as a look but as an internalized cultural point of view, has been a crucial topic in feminist film theory from John Berger’s 1972 book Ways of Seeing to Laura Mulvey’s seminal article Visual Pleasure three years later. It’s particularly applicable to fashion, too: The audience stares at the catwalk, while the model herself is typically required to avert her gaze.
Architect and computational designer Behnaz Farahi mulled on that dichotomy. “I keep thinking whether it might be possible for women to be truly liberated from the objectification. Could we use technology to ‘return the gaze’?”
Farahi, who last month gave a talk on her work creating highly technical, intelligent, and responsive materials at Interior Design’s three-day Giants of Design event in Palm Springs, California, subverts the audience in her Return the Gaze performance piece that foregrounds a model returning her own challenging stare. Tiny cameras on a model’s space-age helmet captures her eyes in extreme close-up video, imagery that is then beamed to monitors mounted on moving robotic arms. The result is a clever investigation of the fashion industry’s history of complicity with objectification.
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