artist maja malou lyse talks ​sex, selfies, and slut shaming

From liberating female pleasure to selfie stick aerobics, artist Maja Malou Lyse’s work turns everything society has said about girlworld on its sexist head.

by Tish Weinstock
|
01 December 2015, 6:14pm

Her sad girl self portraits are taken on a webcam and decorated with screenshots of Google searches such as "Why do guys like." She performs selfie stick aerobics with Arvida Bystrøm dressed from head-to-toe in a pink tracksuit. 22-year-old artist Maja Malou Lyse's work focuses on all things girl. Describing her art as being somewhere between "aggressively girly" and "feminine grotesque" Lyse's work asks some of the most important questions women can ask in 2015. Are women ever in control of their own bodies? Is modern day feminism just a market strategy? Will women ever be able to talk about female sexuality openly without being slut shamed? We catch up with Lyse to find out. 

When did you first become interested in art?
Hmm, well my first encounter with making art was through photography, which I think my mom played a big part in, as she is a photographer herself. Other than that, probably just discovering art and other artists online.

How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
I don't have a sales pitch and try not to pin myself down, but these are some keywords: aggressively girly, habitual body monitoring, feminized body, masculine framework, feminine grotesque.

How do you think the internet has changed what we think of as feminism?
Although the internet has revealed itself to be a catalyst for accelerated slut shaming and body shaming, I do believe that the internet is first and foremost a positive thing for feminism -- it generates communities, resistance, dialogue, education. I definitely think the internet has created a 'call-out' culture, in which sexism, racism, transphobia and homophobia -- which exist in everyday rhetoric, advertising, film, the media, and so on -- can be challenged.

What are your thought on feminism becoming a trend?
I think feminism has exploded as a commodified brand and pseudo-political position. I find brands and companies that profit off feminism as a 'label' or a marketing strategy extremely annoying. I think there's a fine line between 'liberating feminism' and 'liberating capitalism' when it comes to mainstream culture. Instead of looking for 'radical feminism' labelled on an overpriced t-shirt, we should instead be paying attention to radical feminism in history, arts and politics.

You've collaborated with Arvida Byström in the past. Could you explain a bit about the work you've done with her?
We've been doing a few different things together over the years, but I guess our collaborations are a study of the subordination of the feminine. Last year we curated an exhibition together called Like, a female-only group show exploring 'like' culture as a social economy and value. This project was also concerned with the underrepresentation of women in the art world. Our recent collaboration was Selfie Stick Aerobics, a performance we showcased at Tate Modern in London, which we later were invited to perform at Celeste (nightclub) and the 89plus event at Moderna, Modern Museum in Stockholm. We decided to translate the performance into a sort of tutorial video to display on YouTube. Since we launched the video online, the project very much lives its own life, being disseminated by well-known troll sites such as 4chan and 9gag, as well as right-wing media platforms such as Fox News. The video eventually was censored by Facebook.

What is it about selfies that make them such a powerful artistic medium?
I think selfies are an effective medium for self-expression and can work as a tool for taking ownership of one's own images instead of subjecting oneself to the gaze. The conversation surrounding selfies is inherently gendered -- critics call out selfies for being vain, superficial and narcissistic. These are also adjectives often used to describe young girls and terms heavily associated with feminine identities. Selfies can in this sense can work as a simple form of protest.

What's the story behind your blog, Booth Bitch?
I started Booth Bitch in 2012, mainly to take part in the feminist community on Tumblr that I had been following and admiring. It started with just being a blog with selfies and reblogged imagery, later evolving into personal diary content. Booth Bitch works as a form of online-persona, or an alter-ego, perhaps. The project is always evolving. I also recently started performing BB's Corner live at art events, doing a reading of selected questions I've received on the blog and via email, which is super fun! Its main focus is sexuality and sexual health, beauty standards and body culture. I try to approach issues that I think are misinterpreted in mainstream media.

You talk a lot about female pleasure; do you find that this is often underrepresented in mainstream culture?
We are required to appear confident and sexually available at all times -- but shamed and dismissed if we express self-ambition or any sort of independent desire. Our bodies are constantly policed by a society that is marketing pretty much every part of the female body; in this sense, we are taught that our bodies are never truly our own. Historically, female sexuality has always been restrained: whether through the social construct of virginity or through sexual objectification in media and advertising. We always put female sexuality first and foremost in relation to men. I think it's important that we can create new discourses and establish safe spaces for women to have these kind of conversations.

boothbitch.me

Credits


Text Tish Weinstock

Tagged:
feminism
Maja Malou Lyse
booth bitch