Who hasn’t yet fallen in the not-so-wonderful rabbit hole of social image? Surely not celebrities. Among all the people on this planet, they could even be considered experts in the field – maybe not so in the sense that they are the most avid users of social media, but in that they are huge influencers. Despite the promises of success, beauty and glamour, celebrities convey everything from questionable lifestyles choices to a need of validation.
After his very sugary WOTSIT ALL ABOUT, London photographer James Ostrer has a new project, which is unveiling this week at Art Central in Hong Kong. The Ego System presents effigies of global celebrities, whose faces and chests are covered with fish and meat parts, among other repellent stuff leading to a proper celeb bashing.
Ostrer’s new project is to denounce the dishonesty of corporate relationships of celebrities and brands. Through his new ‘honesty portraits’, the London artist explains that his aim is to provide ‘a reaction against corporately contrived icons, the myth bearers that we are increasingly forced to worship’.
Among his subjects are those whom Ostrer feels embody John Updike’s dictum that ‘celebrity is a mask that eats its own face’, notably including Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, Kim Kardashian, Carla Delevingne, Miley Cyrus and Harry Styles as main protagonists. The photographer says he created these artworks because he wanted to ‘underpin [his] own and our collective obsessions with the glorification of celebrity and its dark and seedy underside’.
Through his portrait of Harry Styles, whose body is covered with bras, Ostrer denounces a youth having objectified and lost any consideration of their sexual partner as well as any sense of what a loving relationship is. The photograph of the model representing Carla Delevingne, whose face was applied some meat, ham, and the fur of a dead rabbit on top of her head, blames the often unethical world of fashion. His effigy of Donald Trump comprises a honey blonde bouffant hairpiece, a real pig’s snout, actual sheep eyes, raw fish, crude oil, rubble that has been gold leafed, an inverted pig’s rib cage, a half eaten croissant and a mass produced high street suit and criticises the worst kind of capitalist as well as the inhumanity of a political extremism. And that of Miley Cyrus, dressed in a fur coat decorated with multiple latex breasts, has a face which is made from pig-skin, ox tongue, arms, nose and legs, sheep’s eyes and cow hoof horns completed by a blonde mop of hair denounces the pornification of women in the show business.
The multitude of nauseous-making portraits of numerous famous people are not only a powerful bashing of the cult of validation through social media and other social-seeming digital places, but also a vivid criticism of some celebrities, for whom fame becomes too much and a place in which they eventually get lost, and therefore make them the carriers of sometimes insane and unethical messages to their fans and followers.