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Final Major Project: Exhibition Edits – Image 3

Figure 1: The contour tribe 2018 Jo Sutherst

Contouring is nothing new. In the mid-1500s, Elizabethan stage actors would use chalk and soot on their faces to help the audience members read their expressions. (Xue 2016) This tradition has long continued. Actors still use extreme contouring out of necessity. Stage and filming lights are really powerful and washed the colour out of their faces.

To explore the rise of contouring makeup on social media, I decided to have a go at it myself. But, I quickly got bored with the blending part of the process. I do not have the patience for makeup that others have. So the image became more about the tribal feel the to contouring makeup.

Throughout evolution, humans have always felt safer as part of a tribe and want to belong. Manovich explains it as in today’s society “social media tribes emerge and sustain themselves through aesthetic choices and experience.” (Manovich 2017: 118). We want to belong, so will do everything we can to be part of the tribe. This image expresses that need.

I had help at times from a makeup artist and friend, Alley Stallard. But, I wanted to do as much of it myself as I could, so I learnt to apply the different types of makeup (I even learnt some of the names of the makeup!). Applying the contouring makeup is complicated and challenging to master. As a consequence some of the results appear somewhat violent or comical to the viewer, highlighting the absurdity of these techniques. Yet for some, this process is a necessary one that they go through, often taking several hours each day to perfect.

In the creation and preparation of this image, it occurred to me that there is an existential sadness experienced by slathering on makeup because you feel you ‘have to’. This is evident from the blank expression I maintain in my images. I see in my eyes the tiredness and uncomfortableness that I experienced wearing so much makeup.

The image names are created from the makeup reference numbers in the supporting booklet.



Manovich, L. 2017. Instagram and Contemporary Image. Available at: http://manovich.net/content/04-projects/148-instagram-and-contemporary-image/instagram_book_manovich.pdf [accessed 20 July 2018].

Xue, F. 2016. Byrdie.co.uk [online]. Available at: https://www.byrdie.co.uk/history-of-contouring/slide2 [accessed 6 July 2018].

#august2018 #FracturedIdentities

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