is a multiple by Yinka Shonibare MBE that playfully explores gender stereotypes and power relations: a kaleidoscope in the shape of a phallus, with the body beautifully decorated in the Dutch wax batik patterns the artist is known for, and the head made of highly polished brass.
Through the opening at the head of the phallus a distorted image of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus can be seen. Botticelli’s original image depicted the birth of Venus, the goddess of the sea, standing on a shell, the female ideal as the object of mythology and desire. Shonibare has replaced the female nude with a
photograph of a well-endowed naked male.
”I intended this piece as both playful and serious: it looks like an adult sex toy, but it is also a serious comment on patriarchy, and the objectification of the female body in the media, by what film theorist Laura Mulvey called the ‘male gaze’. KALEIDOSCOPE was meant as ‘one for the ladies’…though I think it may appeal to some Gentlemen too…’ [Yinka Shonibare MBE, 2015].
This object can also be seen as a subversive take on 19th century Victoriana, and specifically the ‘peep show’ images of women viewed through devices such as a kaleidoscope.
As with Shonibare’s celebrated work on the Fourth Plinth, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’, ‘Kaleidoscope’ reclaims an object from a familiar British tradition and subverts it through the bold use of batik patterns and by transforming the shape into that of a phallus.
Click here to view a short video (ca. 4 min) of the artist and Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery talking about Kaleidoscope.
The full recording (ca. 45 min) of Yinka Shonibare MBE in conversation with Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery filmed on 17 October 2014 where Kaleidoscope had its public launch is also available via this link.
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