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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

music box dancer....

Wendy Stefansson. Music Box Dancer. Photogram on silver gelatine paper. 2003

When I was a kid, my girlfriends and I all had little jewellery boxes that played music when you opened the lids. Inside, there was a tiny figure of a ballerina — always in a pink tutu, always en pointe — which would pop up and pirouette. Most of the time the music was from Swan Lake.

Behind the tiny dancer was always a small mirror. As girls, we would view our own images in the mirrors with the ballerinas in front of them. Standing between us and our reflections was this idea of what it meant to be a girl.


On March 8th, 2003 — International Women’s Day — Canada’s National Post newspaper published a fashion editorial about a look I believe they described as “ballerina grunge.” It was part ballet-inspired, part bohemian. Part wabi sabi — the beautiful in the imperfect, the tattered and the bedraggled. The elegant in the earthy. The feminine in the flawed.

I was working in the darkroom quite a lot at the time, and started playing around with the newspaper pages, using them to make photograms — a technique in which one exposes light-sensitive paper through or around a readymade object. In this case, the clippings.

Some of the images on one side of the newsprint lined up in interesting ways with images on the reverse. In one instance, a small image of a dancer overlapped with a closer-up image of the same dancer’s upper body and face. It looked like the music box of my childhood, but all grown up and a little bit darker. A little more fraught.

One of about a million moments in my life of reinterpreting what it means to occupy a female body in this world.

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