Annette Messager Voluntary TorturesBy Annette Messager
In the early 1970s, Annette Messager (born 1943) began collecting photographs from magazines, collating them into the groundbreaking series of 81 photographs known as Voluntary Tortures. These black-and-white photographs depict women undergoing various kinds of cosmetic procedures: breasts being shoveled into suction pads, thighs massaged with electricity, face peelings and more extreme kinds of plastic surgery. The images are often comical, but mostly--as the title proposes--hideous and disturbing. The bizarre contraptions deployed, the awkward positions of the subjects and their coerced body parts grimly articulate the submission of individual physique to social norm. Messager recently rediscovered the prints of this important, pioneering work of feminist art in her studio, making possible their first-ever publication in this large, handsome, slipcased volume, which reproduces the entire series at its original size. The artist discusses the creation of the series in an accompanying essay.