On Beauty by Bobo Matjila

The purpose of this project is to explore the intersection of vulnerability and body image, particularly online. Initially, I wanted to do this through photography, but I feel like video alludes to more intimacy. I think the Internet, and more specifically YouTube is an interesting space to host this project, because it’s the type of space that rejects vulnerability to the extent that everyone is expected to present themselves in the best way possible, especially in the beauty and fashion industry. As a way of refuting that expectation, I am inhabiting this space as the vulnerable subject, through the context of body image. In this way, I am empowering myself and other women to reclaim their power through a cathartic vulnerable performative experience.

Initially, the final goal of this project was to make the one or both of my video’s go viral, however, after researching viral video’s and the marketing behind them, it looks like art videos generally hardly go viral, and it’s mostly very random and up to chance. For this reason, I am just going to spread them throughout different social platforms and record the types of reactions I garner. This way I am creating a micro version of a "viral video" so that I can examine the results, and document the experience of being vulnerable online.

The first video, entitled ‘Love Your Body’ is about a young girl (me) reclaiming her power and sexuality. The second and third video’s are about the hypersexualization of women, and the fourth one is me talking candidly and honestly about my experiences and thoughts on this issue. So far, I have uploaded two of the videos and have found the responses to the video to be very interesting. I have found a great difference between the way men respond to the video versus the way women respond. One of the most interesting things that I have found is that men are less inclined to comment on the video directly and will instead give me their input privately. Of course, because this is a topic women can relate to, I find that they are more in tune with the concept, whereas men are more in tune with the style and aesthetic of the video. I look forward to seeing how the feedback progresses, particularly with the third and fourth video.

I’m currently in the process of examining the feedback that I’m getting from the video and aggregating the engagement data quite scientifically. I’m comparing the differences between the way men respond to the video’s vs women, and I’m also analyzing the types of blogs in which the video circulates, the types of people who respond to it the most, and the possible reasons behind that. Initially, I was concerned that people would be uncomfortable with me sharing their comments, but I figure if they were comfortable enough to share their sentiments in the public space of the Internet, then they’ll probably be okay with me sharing their sentiments with the class.