The Origin of the World (Britney)

The Origin of the World (Britney)
inkjet on canvas, gold frame
34.5 x 31 in.
First version 2008, Second version 2010

The Origin of the World (Britney), is an appropriation of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting by the same name (L’Origine du monde). The image, a remediation of a paparazzi’s capture of Britney Spears' crotch, has been printed on canvas—which suggests that by altering the output of the original snapshot, it somehow raises the validity of the image—and further nodding to the historical inferiority complex of photography to painting. Moreover, the gold, gilded frame reiterates the elevation to highbrow art—in both Courbet’s painting as well as my own.

With one-hundred and fifty years between them, both Courbet’s painting and Britney’s contemporary image proved to jolt their respective cultures and likewise were commissions by a second party. The two images assault the viewer unapologetically—with identical subject matter, solely dependent on its context for cultural reaction and reverence. Courbet’s title is a testament to the on-going paradoxical concept that all innocent, human life emerges from this portal, which remains potentially offensive when depicted in paint or pixels.

Around 2007, a growing trend arose within the celebrity pop-queen (formally pop-princess) demographic: flashing their genitals as a rite of passage as a “fuck you” to the media. Though swept under the rug (no pun intended) as accidentals by the subjects, ET-type television shows agreed that this must be the premeditated actions of attention-hungry “celeb-pops.” The third-wave movement, specifically the concept of regaining control over derogatory portrayals of the female body through mimicry and performance, could be influencing such behavior, or perhaps driving it. I believe this correlation to feminist theory, as well as the mother/mistress conflict manifesting itself in several of the mainstream celeb-pops, to be what inspired The Origin of the World (Britney).

Exhibited in "Paparazzi! Photographers, Stars et Artistes", Centre Pompidou-Metz, February - June, 2014