A cortege of ghostly bodies: Abstraction, prothesis, and the logic of the mannequin
Book chapter, 2018
Bodies are both present and thoroughly gendered in commercial environments – and, by extension, in public space. Such gendered presence is addressed in studies of both the historical evolution and current conditions of consumption and public space alike, which show that it takes many, varied forms. Where much discourse on bodies in such spaces tends to focus on photographic and video material – in magazines, on billboards, and on shopfronts – somewhat less attention has been given to the role of mannequins (here, specifically wax and plastic mannequin ‘dolls’ used to display fashion in shopfronts and inside stores). Mannequins clearly perform something other than the photographic material used to display fashion: they are less detailed, less formulated, and less expressive. This is not due to an inability to make mannequins more ‘real’. Considering their prevalence and gendered presence and distribution, it is worth considering how they specifically contribute to processes of subjectification, embodiment, identity, and fashion negotiation. This project builds on four primary sources: empirical research into commercial space, specifically two department stores; Vanessa Osborne’s ‘The Logic of the Mannequin’; Gilles Châtelet’s discussions on diagrams, space, and abstraction-prothesis processes; and an experimental, explorative study undertaken at Dansmuseet (the Museum of Dance and Movement) in Stockholm in 2012. The project aims to develop our understanding of how mannequins operate in commercial space and society – specifically, how in their abstraction these inanimate objects not only allow for but in fact demand completion from observers.