Aaaargh! Not another Barbie!
As most of you will no doubt know, Barbie is a doll, loved by many generations of little girls. (There was also Ken, but he’s not really part of this blog).
Barbie is an icon, and she has also become an element in quite a few IBDP student final art exhibitions. The proportions of the figure, the hair, the eyes and the smile are often used to represent the unattainable ideal, the pressure in this case on females to become something unreal and unrealistic, to become the adorable but unattainable ideal.
Students, usually female, include Barbie shrines in their exhibitions usually when they want to make a statement about feminism, or society, or the pressure they feel.
Sometimes the Barbies are crucified, or skewered, or wrapped in wire; sometimes they are positioned inside dismantled television sets or old computer monitors; sometimes they are clothed in feathers and blood.
Each time I encounter the Barbie I am struck by the contradiction: so new and original for the student, so old and somewhat predictable for me.
How to square that circle?
Well – if you are an art teacher (reading this blog) you can offer some insights to your students.
If one of them wants to incorporate Barbies into her art, remind the student of some of the wording in the visual arts guide, and discuss the meaning originality – what does original mean?
The Theory of Knowledge questions at the start of the guide include the question “Is it important for artworks to be original? Why?”
Later on, in the Studio Work section, is reference to “the development of original approaches, the discovery of creative solutions and the acquisition of technical skills.”
As part of the process of developing original approaches, Barbie may be weaned out of the piece…But if you like her (you know you do) you might be interested in a Guardian podcast from the 2009 Cambridge Festival of Ideas which discusses female stereotypes (Barbie and Ken Audio (37min 46sec), 26 Oct 2009)