Barbie and I we have this problematic relationship. We played together when I was younger. She does not age. She is a piece of plastic. She will always stay the same. We played get dressed and change your clothes, drive the car, get together with other barbies, eat and drink and get drunk, have sex and break different body parts like the leg. Then our games faded away and I began to interested myself for more serious doings. Like studies, travels, earning money and also the time-consuming thing of trying to be with somebody. To be intimated and committed. Have done all that, I finally felt the desire to reconnect with Barbie again.
After many years of dance studies our way back seem to be about the dancing. In order to redefine our relationship in my grown-up state we now figure out new games. One is that Barbie re-embody me as the dancer. Either historically or contemporary, or both, as my past lay in a combination of studies from both contemporary dance, ballet and performance art. In our first try out based on choreographing new dance-performances for Barbie we tried ballet exercises, floor-work technique and free improvisation. We also tested more of entertaining elements as re-enacting famous commercial performance artists as Marina Abramovic and Björk.
Further ideas we investigate and choreograph are those of the referential approach of other artists. But artists that have been part of my own learning and development throughout my study-trajectory. Artists that have impressed me personally in some way, and artists that I understand have been important for the development of contemporary dance and performance art for the general audience. Anyhow, as a self-reflection and de-attachment Barbie can act as the doll whom can embody my alter-ego and perform the dance history I know of. I myself represent the typical female contemporary dancer with Western European experiences. I represent a body of privileges and responsibilities as well as a body of inequalities because of gender, which body I manipulate Barbie to embody.
Barbie is from the beginning an American product manufactured by the American toy company Mattel. Inc. The product was an idea conceptualised by a woman named Ruth Handler that was inspired by the German doll Bild Lilli. Both dolls were created for the sake of fashion but have been hardly criticized for its unrealistic beauty ideals. With todays great movement forward in Nordic countries concerning female independence referring to #metoo and trends as reclaiming femineity I want to use Barbie for a new context. I want to allow myself to perform with Barbie as she from an early age was part of my explorations. She stood for a lot of things that was also positive in my learnings though her body is unrealistic in this world. Though I learned later that she was created from a male gaze and therefore a non-feministic toy. Though such body was a joke in itself she actually physicalised ideas I had. She made me connect with others who also had Barbie and she was a friend when I was alone.
Performance Ellinor Ljungkvist & Barbie
Photography Hans Finchk
Premier at the dance festival Going Solo Together at Theater Martin Mutter Örebro 2018