Jay Younger and Lisa O’Neill

Jay Younger and Lisa O’Neill
MEAT MIRROR Opening Night Performance
Performance Activated Multi Media Installation
Mappins Nursery, Brisbane
All Photos this page: Joe Ruckli

Be shared! Or be scared!

Ever wondered how dangerous Kim Kardashian’s booty is? And just how far social media and celebrity culture will invade?

MEAT MIRROR asks what is beauty, what is horror?  

Jay Younger & Lisa O’Neill’s 10-minute performance-activated multi-media installation takes the Brazilian Butt Lift as its subject, to question “beauty’s new normal” in a surreal aquatic wonderland.

MEAT MIRROR confronts audiences with the consequences of social media gaslighting women to undergo unnecessary, and at times life-threatening surgery.

The intention is not to criticise women who undertake cosmetic surgery, but to highlight the process of gaslighting and to warn women that this is a predatory business model that has little concern for its unsuspecting consumers.

Jay and Lisa were inspired by ABC Four Corners‘ story ‘Beauty’s New Normal. Australians now spend over a billion dollars annually on cosmetic procedures—sometimes with fatal consequences. While statistics show that cosmetic surgery is a booming business, they don’t tell us the affective side of this frightening story encouraged by the toxic mirror of social media. Rather than dry ineffective statistics, MEAT MIRROR focuses on ‘affective’ experience, to expose hidden and insidious beauty industry tactics, revealing the sensations of vulnerability and coercion experienced by its female targets.

At programmed times, a short solo performance activates the installation which includes a suspended upside-down dressing table with a waterfall running down its mirror face into a shallow 4-metre-wide pool. The mirror reflects an animated video that is projected onto it filling the surrounding walls with hypnotic reflections.

To question the process of gullible conformity, ‘mirroring’—being a subconscious mimicking of others that simultaneously activates reward and pleasure in the brain—is a key image of the work. In keeping with the Suburban Gothic, the mirror acts as a metaphor for the omnipresence of the screen that channels destabilising external ‘digital’ monsters that enter the private and safe space of the domestic sphere through its unrestricted and trusted presence. The dressing table mirror represents the place where the image is reflected, mediated and maintained each day. It is the place where we privately invent ourselves for public appearance. It is the place where order and identity acquiesce. While MEAT MIRROR commences with a sense of narrative normality—in actuality, the dressing table and its mirror in this interior world are upside down.

Representing the pressure applied by social media ‘feed’, the flow of water stops and starts in sequences integrated with the soundscape and choreography. The synchronised swimmer character—embodying the disciplined conforming body—is disappointed with the flatness of her booty and undertakes absurd steps to grow her bottom. The performer moves between her reflection and ‘the feed’ interacting with the animated waterfall images accompanied by sound constructed from Ottorino Respighi’s The Birth of Venus. The narrative takes the audience on a journey from idyllic naivety through to mirroring celebrity culture to the horrific reality and devastation experienced by the protagonist.

Through the mirror, animated collages of absurd gaslighting invade and disrupt her watery interior world. The nostalgic classical music is distorted—pulsing, wavering—in tragic crescendos including bone sawing, cutting, oozing and gurgling suggestive of liposuction and surgical reconfiguration. The animated collages move through in sequence from naivety to tragedy in a series of increasingly disturbing stages punctuated by throbbing Instagram hearts that become more hypnotic and manic until exploding. The projections commence with a picturesque blue waterfall flowing and flashing red, to scrolling celebrity booty Instagram feed, to synchronised swimmer flowers gushing from a flesh incision, to ‘before and after’ Instagram BBLs,  to meat flowers bursting from a bloody surgical incision, arriving at the narrative crescendo where the protagonist undergoes her BBL, to violent BBL surgery, cut with red blubber being pushed and pulled in the flesh incision. With dark humour at its core, the narrative crescendo is the literal and absurdly large inflation of the elated protagonist’s booty.