Laurie Simmons‘ recent show, Kigurumi, Dollers and How We See, Salon 94 Bowery in New York, features eerie looking photos of dollers (also known as Kiggers), a circle of Japanese cosplay enthusiasts (Kigurumi), who dress up like anime-style female dolls and wear their costumes out in public. The men and women involved in this fascinating ‘counter-cuture’ go to great lengths to suppress any lingering vestiges of their own bodies, wearing 360-degree masks, wigs, and full bodysuits.
Some of my cosplayers are men and some are women but they all portray female characters. I try to explore the psychological subtexts of beauty, identity and persona surrounding the assembled Dollers. At first I dressed them only in fetish latex, which seemed both doll-like and right for their identities, but it soon became clear that they needed to expand their repertoire and play dress up.
Along her collection of photographs, we see this odd juxtaposition between the inanimate and the living; how is it possible to be experiencing something both so fake yet so real all at once? It is that and more- Simmons’ gives these ‘dolls’ the opportunity to experience the phenomenon of the selfie (“Yellow Hair / Red Coat / Snow / Selfie” ) and an overall exposure to what is to be present, as something outside of the realm of the average human being, in the current world of self-promotion and its agenda (perfection, beauty, etc). “Might masking (becoming a Kigger, in this instance) be at least part of the appeal of contemporary forms of imaging and presentation of the self via social media?”, asks Simmons.
In the last decade the boundaries separating identity and persona have become increasingly blurred — as individuals ‘present’ their BEST selves to their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers. One tilt of the iphone can make the difference between a glamorous, funny or obscene selfie. I wonder about the fuzzy space between who “we” are to ourselves and the “we” that is invented, constructed and expressed using the readily available tools of the 21st century? Aren’t we all playing dress-up in some part of our lives?
Laurie Simmons: Kigurumi, Dollers and How We See in on view at Salon 94 Bowery (243 Bowery, Lower East Side) through April 27.