Birgitta Hosea


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Dog Betty (2007)

dog betty in red lion square

artist statement

I was part of an group of artists-in-residence in the Lethaby Gallery in Central Saint Martins, London in August 2007. For my work I had been thinking a lot about femme-ininity and how we perform our identity, so I sculpted a paper character called Dog Betty (inspired by Betty Boop) , which I performed in. Read our blog here: http://heretomorrow.blogspot.com.

Is the animation of a character a performative act? A part of any dictionary definition of animation is to give life to and the act of animation imbues the inanimate with life: as I draw, sculpt or digitally manipulate, I give life to.

Under the influence of Judith Butler’s theory of performativity, I resolved to explore the performative nature of the animation process. Could I give life to a cartoon character and use participant observation to see what it’s like to be a cartoon?

I created a character, Dog Betty, based on the early character designs for Betty Boop in which she started out as a poodle. I personally find the character of Betty Boop problematic. She has an iconic graphic image and is the only central female carton character with her own series during that period of history. Some see her as sassy and mischievous, but I find her at times irritatingly submissive and childlike with her baby voice: complicit in her own objectification. Dog Betty was intended as more of a bitch, a more mischievous character that would allow me to explore femininity. How could a girl do girl drag?  A cartoon character allows you non-naturalistic license to isolate and exaggerate character traits, thus revealing the artifice behind an ironic identity of femininity.

Conceived of as a piece for You Tube, this was the intervention of an anarchic, plasmatic cartoon world into the everyday life of Holborn. On the first day in my paper costume I felt very naughty: as if I had permission to do anything. I would have liked to go further with her into more dangerous territory, but I self-censored because of my intended audience. My performances were videoed by friends. As this piece was intended for You Tube, I wanted a spontaneous, immediate documentation and was interested in the idea of a You Tube aesthetic: that non-professional video has more authenticity and sense of liveness than professionally polished camerawork.

Conceptually it was very important that the head was made of paper, because I wanted to be inside the paper skin of a cartoon character. The giant paper head is obviously uncomfortable. Subconsciously, I think that I didn’t go the whole extra mile to put a helmet in for better control of the costume so that it wouldn’t be completely ‘professional’ and so that it could be differentiated from the type of characters you might see at Disneyland.

[watch the films]