‘I throw myself at men’ – “Yes, we know Jac…” Well, I never. Unfortunately for those who are familiar with my last article I shan’t be making this a weekly confessional. If you’ve ever been accused of throwing yourself at men then prepare to feel a whole lot better about yourself.
American Artist Lilly McElroy has literally thrown herself at people in her work ‘I throw myself at men’, creating a visual representation of just how awkward meeting a potential partner can be. The series, photographed by an accomplice, shows McElroy in an array of well-trodden first date locations just moments after meeting a stranger.
The fourteen images that make up the series fluctuate in hilarity depending on the mid-flight pose captured. In some McElroy looks to have flamboyantly fallen, think Sunday league football, whilst in others she seems to have launched herself with the intensity of a ballet dancer. Her choice of leap dictates the mood of each image with some being unflattering or clumsy at best and others seeming more elegant or even aggressive. By picking the men who participate in the project, the artist attempts to invert the masculine gender role of predator by rejecting herself as something to be selected.
McElroy’s series is a look at human interaction that could be, and has been, dismissed as something simply light-hearted, but I would argue that it is a project with innate conceptual rigour. Tackling feminist ideas with a humorous edge enables her audience to feel comfortable enough to address the ideas that she is portraying. Continuing her work concerned with human interaction, and how this works within a larger social framework, McElroy interrupts the atmosphere of public places in ‘Locations’. A series in which she dresses in a white night dress, before proceeding to lay preciously on the ground amongst busy environments, such as train stations.
Aesthetically this series is beautiful. Like with ‘I throw myself at men’ the visual elements of the images cannot be ignored. Using the semiotic connotations of white, the artist further detaches herself from her surroundings becoming the thread that links her chain of images. Public spaces become awkward; in some she is even approached. A man glances down at her as he tries not to look resting in his armchair. This ‘look’ epitomises the crux of the project – how often do we see something that we find odd and choose simply to ignore it? Remember that homeless guy shaking the cup? We feel bad but if we keep walking it remains his problem.
By lying down in public spaces McElroy admits “I was making myself physically vulnerable” but she credits this to the success of her projects. By making herself appear vulnerable she is less of a threat to those who she asks to participate in her creations. In many ways this project differs from the first, however, by choosing to passively lay motionless in such locations she realises that the “action became aggressive simply because it was an interruption.” In recounting the performance experience she has admitted that some shouted at her and acted in a confrontational way, but she attributes this to the pure incomprehension of what she is doing lying on the floor. Exploring duality through her work she states that she is “interested in actions that can signify more than one thing, behaviors that are simultaneously loving and cruel.”
Returning back to something light, my last look at McElroy comes in her video work. Personally I am not a big fan of video work. Don’t get me wrong I do like film and cinema but I find art attempts at it to normally fall short, or it simply goes over my head. Growing up in Southern Arizona McElroy states that she is “surrounded by cliché representations of her own experiences” – one of these connected to the dramatic landscapes of Southern America. In her four minute video McElroy dances vigorously to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ holding a boom box aloft her head. By parodying this movie moment and playing the part of the ‘Hopeful Romantic’ she once again confronts the role of gender as well as using the absurd to highlight her own investigations.
Reviewing McElroy’s work, I feel the most potent element to be her own participation. Though she features in many of her works it does not feel that she wants to grab attention but rather use herself to gain the work she wants to make. Rooted in concept and combined with her willingness to throw (literally) herself into the moment to gain results, I look forward to her next offerings to the artistic world!