A Living Doll

Markela Panegyres


Got myself a cryin', talkin', sleepin', walkin', livin' doll

Got to do my best to please her just 'cause she's a livin' doll

Got a roamin' eye and that is why she satisfies my soul

Got the one and only walkin', talkin', livin' doll…

Photo by Ellen Dahl

Photo by Ellen Dahl

Masks and masquerade may be used as a strategy for an individual to simultaneously perform, inhabit and resist typical gender roles. A Living Doll draws from mime and marionette theatre to explore the vexed relationship between a female subject and her mask(s). The installation features three video performance works in which the archetype of the Doll is used to examine themes of violence, sexuality and masochism.

The Doll appears in these works as a hyper-feminine persona, with a stylised doll-white face and pink lips, wearing a white dress with a pink sash and puffy sleeves. She engages in a range of problematic, sexualised, abject and violent actions and behaviours. The Doll is neither fully adult nor fully child—her behaviour oscillates between that of a petulant child who devours a cake in secret and throws a tantrum, and that of a strange geisha or animated sex-doll who makes sexually ambiguous and erotic gestures (for example smearing cake/shit over her face). A Living Doll creates a disquieting psychological space in which a woman/girl revolts against her body, sexuality and expected feminine gender roles.

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Mimi Kelley, “Still Fraught, Still Relevant: Performing Through Popular Culture,” in Adam Geczy and Mimi Kelley, (ed.s), What is Performance Art? Australian Perspectives, (Sydney: Power Publications, August, 2018).