Kristyna Milde, Turkish bath after Ingres, 2008, staged digital photography, H19.7 x W19.7 (H50 cm x W50 cm)
čUMENI is a series of staged photographs combining two seemingly different approaches of depicting women: the history of European master paintings and modern pop culture. The dolls play the role of historical icons in the familiar paintings pointing out the connection between stereotypical representation in the past and the present. The paintings are first re-created in 3D and then photographed. The sets are built from very simply materials such as paper and fabric, mimicking the original atmosphere and composition. The goal is not to achieve another master painting but rather the opposite.
The name čUMENI plays in Czech language upon words art and gaping. This series critiques the depiction of women and female sexuality within the art history and popular culture. It examines how modes of representation distort our perception of women, reducing her to an object of desire and visual pleasure creating an artificial identity. The appearance of the dolls influences the creation of the cultural identity and the self-perception already from an early age. The children are not only playing but also learning and absorbing specific perception of reality represented by the products.
As traditionally recognized media, historical paintings sanction the male gaze, which in other contexts would be considered voyeurism. The motifs of the paintings range from the Antic Mythology to the Oriental Harem culture, which are consider being exotic, fantasy places, where other laws and standards are allowed. Here the nudity and secret dreams could be lived covered by the context of the otherness.