Exhibitions

In 2001, the L.A. Raeven submitted a personal ad to the Guardian inviting “Ideal Individuals” to apply to participate in their investigation on “future lifestyles, changes in society and current trends in fashion and advertising”.This act could have been taken for what is a common strategy in participatory and relational art practice, whereby artists try to find “actors” for their work. However, the project triggered a completely different public reaction after the newspaper simply declined to publish the ad. What was so “odd” in the ad that provoked such a reaction of censorship were the physical requirements asked of the candidates for an “Ideal Individual”: seventeen-inch (43 cm) waist, no full breast development, underdeveloped secondary sex characteristics, unusual eating habits, a controlled daily schedule, at least one practical inability, etc.

The search for an “Ideal Individual” initiated by the L.A. Raeven and the response from the Guardian opened up many puzzling issues related to the social construction of the ideal body in different historical and cultural contexts. It also raised the question of the public reception of a “normal” and “healthy” body, and its distinction from one that is not. Finally, it disclosed the role of the fashion industry, with its global outreach, in setting trends and deeply affecting consumers, particularly teenagers looking to models for body ideals.

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