The Study on Beauty Politics is an excerpt from Kaisa Syrjänen’s work, at the core of which is the practices of appearance and beauty as social phenomena. Syrjänen examines the role and significance of self presentation, particularly from the perspective of femininity and the expectations placed upon those perceived as women.
The installation designed for Hippolyte Studio consists of observations, reflections, examinations, and assertions from different intersecting eras. By juxtaposing personal and collected photographs along with other materials in new contexts, Syrjänen aims to unveil power dynamics within our society and the demand to look a certain way in a specific place. A guiding thread throughout the installation is the notion of work and its relationship to appearance.
“Appearance labour” is a sociological term used to describe the work put into one’s appearance. It encompasses everyday activities such as dressing up, applying makeup, adorning oneself, selecting clothing, and maintaining cleanliness. In Western consumer culture and the neoliberal mindset, appearance, like the individual in general, is often scrutinized through an economic lens. Expectations of productivity, efficiency, and respectability are projected onto the human body and its outward appearance. Citizens and individuals are expected to take sole responsibility for themselves, primarily by appearing to take care of themselves. However, employees are not compensated for the time, money, and energy invested in pre-work grooming; on the contrary, the act of dressing up consumes the worker’s time, resources, and effort.
The exhibition includes a conversation between the artist and Dr. Erica Åberg, a doctorate in economic sociology and an appearance researcher. This conversation can be read as a separate text (in Finnish).
Kaisa Syrjänen (b. 1997) is a Helsinki-based visual artist and photographer who works within the realm of research-based art. In her works, Syrjänen combines various photographic materials, documents, and texts. She is fascinated by modes of representation and the continuous uncertainty related to the contextual nature of photographic meanings. Syrjänen is interested in the intersections between art and science, and she is inspired by questions of art’s accessibility. She graduated from the Lahti Institute of Design with a focus on photography in 2022.
The artist’s work has been supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike). Thanks to Fat Lizard for sponsoring the opening drinks.
Study on Beauty Politics
Image: Kaisa Syrjänen, Hairbrush, 2021