Collaging Social & Political Intentions
Mad Girl’s Love Song
In a series of collages, ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ depicts the female experience in the context of gendered space. These collages attempt to portray feminist issues spatially – for instance, the sexualization of the female body and the ‘male gaze’ in public, as well as the privatization and isolation of domestic work in private. Using images from 1950s post-war ads against rendered backdrops, the sexism becomes obvious is an almost ironic, comical way. The intention is to highlight the problematic issues surrounding feminism in a physical, architectural realm, and to shed light on how femininity alters the way in which we experience space.
The sky falls over the glossy face of the pool. Wet linen drips on the concrete and women lounge by the poolside. Some undress in the light of the window while others bathe and shower. Above, shared clothes hang on cable lines strung from inner balconies. A celebration of the female body transpires in the courtyard. | The facade is smeared in lipstick. Punched windows frame the view to a woman at her vanity. The corridor becomes a charged area of scattered coat racks, swapped clothes and girls undressing behind curtains. The concrete face, masking the inner environment of the building, challenges femininity, the sexualization of women and the ‘male gaze’.
Filtered into a domestic setting, this project challenges the sexualization of women through an all-female housing residence that embraces two contrasting environments: 1) one, surrounding the central courtyard, which encourages hygiene and care for the body in a communalized setting and 2) two, represented through the corridor and facade, displaying women getting ready (i.e. putting on makeup, styling hair, dressing and undressing). In a radical attempt to reclaim the body, the act of presenting women in this way becomes a statement in which ‘dressing’ no longer becomes shameful, hidden, or secretive but rather loud, visible, and powerful. Overall, the residence encourages women to reclaim rightful ownership of their body whilst allowing the female body to be both celebrated and liberated.
Who influences you graphically?
Visually, I feel most drawn to art I can relate to, or art I can identify with. Sometimes I’ll see a painting or a picture and the colours will remind me of a summer in my backyard, or my childhood bedroom, and I’ll save it. I think art allows me to be nostalgic in that way. Graphically, I’m influenced by many notable figures in different mediums – the colour photographs of Julius Shulman, paintings by Wanda Pimentel, the collage work of Beth Hoeckel, and various films – Pierrot Le Fou, The Truman Show, American Beauty, Her – to name a few. As a writer, Nabokov has a strong visual influence on me. The way he pairs words together immediately creates a picture in my head – crushed daisies, violet dirt, a hazy sunlit room.
What is your process method in constructing a collage? How do you select the individual fragments? Do you have a general archive or search pieces per image?
I’ve been making collages since I was seventeen years old. Collecting has become somewhat of a habit to me – whether it’s images, video clips, songs, things from places I’ve been where nice things have happened, or things I’ve seen in galleries. I think I am constantly searching for something relatable, identifiable. Something that sparks a memory.
Collaging has always been a simple art form to me. Oftentimes, I find it easier to convey a complex idea by mixing images together. The act of cutting and pasting is always interesting, and always intuitive. Much of my architectural work deals with the idea of a spatial feminism and gendered space – so, in this case, I am more specific about the images I use and where they come from. I find myself using figures from 1950s post-war ads where stereotypical gender norms become ironically and comically apparent, touching on issues of feminism, suburbia, capitalism, etc. The use of vintage pictures against selected colours and textures not only creates an atmosphere, but helps communicate the social and political intentions behind the collage – translating conceptual ideas into a physical, tangible – ultimately, visual thing.
Where does the collage sit in relation to the line drawing?
While the collage tries to simplify an idea through imagery, the line drawing, rather, attempts to reveal the intricacies and details of the spaces it represents. The three-part axonometric series of the Tuileries Garden in Paris reveals the ornate aspects of the garden that make it unique – the clipped hedges, octagonal pools, boats floating on the Seine… I believe these subtleties activate the space, and should therefore be represented in drawing.
How and to what extent did the work experience influence the means through which you represent a project?
During my internship at Bovenbouw, I had the opportunity to work in a team to create highly detailed physical models out of simple materials. The modelling process was always raw and playful. What I found to be most influential was the level of detail we undertook in creating the model. The furniture, colours, and textures became as significant as the walls, windows, doors, etc. By bridging the gap between detail and structure, the physical model allowed the design to become one cohesive whole. Here, the architecture is represented as a moment in time, a capture – rather than something static or permanent.
How does the paper model explore the project compared to the drawing? How were these then post produced in Photoshop?
Photographing the paper model was very much like creating a film set – playing with the camera and light angles, arranging and rearranging props, using backdrops, etc. The process began with a sketch, into the creation of the model itself (which was often done at a scale of 1:33), and finally onto photographing. The post-production in Photoshop consisted of cleaning up details, adjusting light and colour, and including a background texture. While drawings highlight the technical aspects of a design, the paper model exposes visual details. Here, the project truly comes to life in front of you, revealing light, shadow, and materiality, both three-dimensionally and in colour.
Mayuri Paranthahan is a third-year student at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Cambridge, Ontario. Currently, she is working as an intern architect at KWY in Lisbon, Portugal. Previously, she has worked at Bovenbouw Architectuur in Antwerp, Belgium, and Johnson Chou Inc. in Toronto, Ontario. She is particularly interested in feminism and suburbia, and continues to explore a rather poetic form of architecture – one of which concerns itself with the human condition and believes in the sweetness of the Earth.