Past Award Winners: NAK_D - Imperfectly Imperfect
The desire to be perfect, to fulfil societal expectations on how you should regard your body, the 'perfection' of other people becoming the window of competition within yourselves, and the social media reality forcing us to look and think a certain way - these were the issues that Chyna Denton Silver chose to explore in her project NAK_D Imperfectly Imperfect.
Strong imagery and bold, symbolic performances from the models in her video make you question this idealization of societal norms that fit none. Why do we consider Instagram influencers the canon? Why do we consider having plastic surgery and modifying our bodies instead of accepting who we truly are?
In an age where social media is the recurrent best friend of millions of people, how can we fight what forces us to compare ourselves to others and especially those deemed 'perfect'? NAK_D undresses these false expectations and raises awareness of the hurtful and humiliating name calling women endure every day.
"They are all about a perfect aesthetic, pleasing feeds, their body, how beautiful it is, about plastic surgery. In my video, Imperfect Perfect Imperfections, I’m not glamorising these ideas. The models are talking about turning their imperfections into perfection" Chyna remarks, as she explains the motivation behind her iconic project.
Following its completion, she explains: "I now have a completely different outlook on Instagram, I've unfollowed a lot of people and I now only follow influencers that support body awareness, show their imperfections and accept them ".
From the black and white scenarios and the hurtful slurs written on their bodies, one might think this is a project about women identifying with these names. However, as the video progresses, the models start to change: the black and white tones are replaced with full colour and gradually, the women erase the slurs as a symbolic act of embracing their "imperfections".
Chyna was a second-year student at the time she made this film, through the powerful photography and video she empowered women to speak up and embrace themselves. This project was also a challenge and a growing moment for the artist as she had to overcome her own anxieties. She explains: " The struggles? I had quite a lot. I found out during the project I have social anxiety and anxiety in general. I had recurrent panic attacks because things weren't going according to plan. Because of that I changed my project around. My initial idea was to have models posing in parks or at the studio but most of the models let me down. They did not show up and had a lot of demands. So, I overcome that by using my friends as models."
The question still remains, how can we keep younger generations away from these false canons? To become aware of themselves and not identify with insults used against them? If Instagram starts to be what is considered ‘real', how can we fight such overwhelming force? The answer could be quite simple, using ‘cancel culture’ in such a way that it can bring positive outcomes, as Chyna suggests "I would say complete block out the negative and focus on the positive. Block out all the influencers promoting boob jobs and procedures to alter ourselves. Have a positive feed."
Through a combination of challenges faced during the making of the video and discussions during the focus group made before the shoot, both artist and models were positively impacted by the project and now regard their bodies in a completely different way. "I conducted a focus group before the shoots. We talked about how social media has affected them. They said that some of the slurs that feature at the very beginning of the film are what they have actually been called themselves, and they felt very liberated rubbing these slurs off their bodies and embracing themselves.”
Chyna accepts that social media is an extremely powerful tool, and it is something that we must use to our advantage in a positive way. We, as individuals, have to find methods to filter unhealthy content, take advantage of the situation and use Instagram and YouTube as a tool for learning and enjoying the things we like, not as a tool of comparison and belittlement.
Watch the NAK_D film here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PvNxkVkZ7A
Story by Joana Alarcão,
A Portuguese Eco-artist and writer that works primarily within the concepts of social/environmental justice and culture. Complementary to her studio practice she founded the online platform Insights of an Eco Artist and has worked with magazines such as Women to Women, African vibes, GateKeeper and 99 Design.