In her multimedia series Wedding in Disneyland, Kayla Polan examines celebrity culture, cult of personality, mass obsession, privacy, and public spectacle.
Last year, Kayla began collecting images of Jennifer Aniston on tabloid magazine covers, specifically covers that referred to Aniston’s pregnancy, relationship status, or aging body. These tabloid covers reveal significant cultural conditions about the expectations of women’s reproduction, and their bodily autonomy. Part of what’s interesting about the tabloid phenomena is that the obsession with Aniston stems from her failure (to maintain a relationship, to reproduce, etc). She is a reconstruction of the crisis of the feminine and what women should be. With all that said, the fact that the archive is of Jennifer Aniston is ultimately unimportant to the work, rather the digital archive serves as a springboard for further thought and process. Kayla often uses popular culture as a starting point for further investigations in her work.
“The term ‘cover’ speaks volumes, if you take the trouble to see that the photo can cover up as much as it uncovers.” - Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorn, “Inquest on an Image,” 1972, Appropriation, White Chapel Press
“They can tell us what’s hot and what’s not, and who’s doing who. They can open and close minds, kill time, sell both schlock and sublimity, dictate taste, create consensus, and use and abuse power and change the world. They can collapse complex thoughts, objects and events into dumb but catchy buzzwords or reductive indictments.” - Barbara Kruger, The Magazine, White Chapel Press
Screenshot of Kayla’s digital archive. The archive includes over 200 images.
Secrets, Body Issues and Affairs, 65 inkjet prints on gloss paper, 2019
Below is a selection of images from the total 65 images created
In this work, Kayla created a persona through reenactment and restaging of the covers. She bought similar clothes, and posed in the same way - a close retelling of the covers.
Kayla is interested in the way that media systems are evolving. There is a new theatricality to the way that news is delivered. And this shift coincides with the emergence of “fake news”. We can see this particularly with politicians’ Twitter feeds, but this has permeated down to cable TV, YouTube, and other media outlets. News is now delivered in a way that can be both absurd and humorous, but also frightening. While magazines are becoming an outdated mode of media, they are a historic example of this theatricality. Magazines are a corporate tool that can both mention and omit. For this reason, Kayla was interested in blurring lines between fact and fiction in this series. All the backgrounds have been composited into the image, and even when Kayla is featured alongside another person they were composited together in the image.
Secrets, Body Issues and Affairs, inkjet prints on gloss paper, 2019
Installation at the University of Waterloo Artery Gallery
Secrets, Body Issues and Affairs was installed in a grid format to enable the viewer to find similarities amongst images in close proximity to each other. In viewing the images in this way, they become repetitive - an exploration of mass obsession. The grid install implies the Pinterestification of life.
Look Hot In Desert Hues, mixed media (canvas, high gloss paper, illustration board), 2019
Installation at the University of Waterloo Artery Gallery
Each paint chip represents the average colour of each magazine cover in the digital archive. The title of the paint chip corresponds to text found on the cover.
Alongside the photographic performance series, Kayla pursued data visualization as a means of communicating information found on the tabloid magazine covers. She broke down various data points including the average word count, average price, average value, average tone, the # of children Aniston has supposedly had, etc. This pursuit was a way to contemplate on simplifications, as well as similarities among trending topics and buzzwords. Similarly to the photographic performance series Secrets, Body Issues and Affairs, this work speaks to fact versus fiction, as so much information is often left out with data visualizations. It is no coincidence that big corporations produce the only data visualizations that are decipherable because they withhold so much information. Data visualization speaks to ideological intent. Look Hot in Desert Hues speaks to the challenges of elucidating information in this era of digital overload.
Kayla is interested colour visualizations because they’re often oriented to communicating biases (think: red/blue states). Despite tabloid magazines having punchy colours, their average colours in Look Hot in Desert Hues are incredibly bland (just like the contents of the magazines).
Still images from performance Everybody Will Be Talking, single channel video, 22:19, 2019.
Making connections to recurrent patterns found on the tabloid magazine covers, Kayla embodied these connections and performed them for the camera in Everybody Will Be Talking. Some themes explored include the cyclical and repetitive nature of images and stories, the emptiness of performing identity, the labour involved in maintenance, and the representation of love played by two stars of the Hollywood system. Every performance has aspects of failure, futility, and discomfort. Kayla’s interest in performance stems from the possibility of watching a metaphor unfold, as opposed to traditional medias that presents a metaphor to be contemplated on.
You can watch the full video here.
The photographic series Secrets, Body Issues and Affairs, the sculptural series Look Hot in Desert Hues and the performance series Everybody Will Be Talking, together form the project entitled Wedding in Disneyland. This work is ultimately about an investigation or process that can never fully be resolved.