The Living Human Body As Art

Here on Earth there’s a sort of planetary economy that used to be based on work. Actual, physical work. You got on your knees and got your hands dirty and planted seeds and if you waited long enough, plants would grow. And if you waited for them to grow tall and proud, you could pick them, turn them into cloth, and weave them into a garment. Or if they were food, you could throw them into the back of a wagon, drive them to the village square and sell them for money.

And then radio came along, and then television. And people don’t want to turn on their set to listen to the rustle of grain or to see a loom clacking away, they want to see a face. They want to see people. In particular, beautiful people.

So began the living human body as art.

We began to dress and act as though we were in a movie or on TV, modeling ourselves after what we saw in the glowing glass, thinking it was a mirror. We thought we could imitate what we saw in the picture, unaware of what was going on just outside the edges of the screen: Massive lamps, heavy cameras, directors doing sign language, a hundred grips running with looped cords, and boom microphones were all posed just outside the line of sight.

We thought we could be like them.

Now people think their lives should run like a movie, that what they say should be gifable, and that the outfits they pick out should be worthy of history.

It takes a lot to make a movie; about one hour of work goes into one minute of film…and that’s for a small indie project. The question is, are you really willing to put that much work into your life? (Apart from the fact that that would be mathematically impossible.)

The living body as art is a decontextualization of life. The body you see on screen, wind-blown hair just so, outfit just so, quips and quotes just so, exists in a certain context. A context outside reality. Redefining beauty standards doesn’t mean you should be fat or just not take care of yourself. It means you should think about what a healthy, happy person looks like in the context of life. Dirty, everyday, mundane, natural life with nobody filming or feeding you lines.

Don’t Look for Too Long!

Here’s my entry to this week’s Author Aerobics. In adherence to the rules, it’s a new genre called Skewed Reality. This genre focuses on a slightly or morbidly skewed viewpoint. It points out details that normal people would ignore, or adds things that aren’t really there. Things don’t appear as they truly are. This story is about a girl who thinks that staring into a mirror for too long will produce undesirable results. It might be obvious what she thinks will happen, or it might not. It depends on how well read you are. 🙂

* * *

As Cynthia passed the front window of CARDER’S, she glanced away. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see her own reflection. But she stopped herself from looking…everyone knew what would happen if you stared too long into a mirror. Cynthia walked through the sliding doors, scanning the racks of clothing. Where was that girl?!

“Over here!” called May, her cousin. May was holding a sweater she had taken from a rack, and was standing by a tall mirror. She held up the green knit article and asked Cynthia’s opinion.

Cynthia nodded. “I like it. It’s springy.”

May shot a furtive glance into the mirror.

Cynthia shook her head. Why hadn’t people invented mirrors yet that would turn off when it could sense you looking into it for more than five seconds? It was a scientific fact that magnetic beams came out of your eyes. Why couldn’t they somehow put magnetic sensors into the mirror that started a timer…?

Oh well. Cynthia wanted to be an inventor, and perhaps that would be her great masterpiece. It would spare so many people from…well, from you-know-what.

“I think it’s spiffy,” May said, folding the sweater over her arm, oblivious to the obvious danger looming everywhere. She took one glance into the mirror for less than a moment, as Cynthia tugged her toward the checkout counter.

The cashier was nice enough, but she didn’t seem to care—or notice—that May’s sweater was on sale.

“Hey,” said May. “That’s supposed to be fifty percent off.”

“Huh?” The cashier pulled something from her ears…what Cynthia realized were earbuds. “Oh, sorry. Yeah.” She punched something into the register quickly, before diving back into her music. “Have a nice day,” she said distractedly, handing May the crinkly plastic bag. May tucked it under her arm and she and Cynthia walked out the sliding doors into the hot parking lot.

Everywhere, Cynthia could see her own reflection in car doors, rear-view mirrors, and in the puddles on the hot pavement. But no, she refused to look into the reflections for too long. Because…

Well, everyone knew what would happen. She shuddered, hurrying May past a spray of yellow flowers in a planter.