Kim Hoeckele’s photographic practice decodes theories and methodologies of representation from the past in order to better understand the present and in turn, the future. Her process involves meticulous research combined with material experimentation where the image points to influences far beyond the frame. Operating at the intersection of art history and advertising, Hoeckele’s epoch, stage, shell functions as a form of visual archeology where she brings together numerous, seemingly disparate visual references and flattens them into fused images.
In epoch, stage, shell, the New York-based artist is both author and subject as she performs sculptural poses for the camera in her studio. Her figure occupies the majority of each frame, confronting viewers with her nude body as it echoes distinct art historical moments that have shaped the Western art historical canon and notions of Western beauty. Here, she proposes a messier standard of beauty: one that is mixed, eroded, and patched together. In a single image, inspirations include a 7th-century Egyptian Block statue, Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde (1866), Joan Miró’s The Birth of the World (1925), and the 17th-century alchemical symbol that represents the interplay of the four elements of matter, “The Squared Circle.” In another photograph, Hoeckele addresses surrealist photographer Man Ray whose Ingres’s Violin (1924), takes Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Grande Odalisque (1814) as a point of inspiration for his armless, objectified female subject.
Hoeckele’s photographs don’t simply re-present and remix art history, they also offer a sharp critique. Many of the references used as visual building blocks in Hoeckele’s studio were originally conceived of by white men who have used women’s bodies in depreciative ways and their impact can still be felt and seen today. Advertising perpetuates these same issues and creates impossible standards of beauty. Hoeckele argues that despite what people may think regarding feminist progress in these spaces, problematic strategies of representation continue to repeat themselves and are still covertly embedded in visual culture.
Positioned in Toronto on billboards, epoch, stage, shell co-opts display mechanisms most commonly used for advertising. In this way, Hoeckele’s visual assemblages can be seen in the locations where they are needed most, challenging viewers to consider the psychological violence caused by the idealization of women’s bodies both past and present. Hoeckele redirects viewers to ulterior influences that are foundational to advertising—a significant agent in generating social norms. Hoeckele’s images subvert these spaces with photographs that have been spliced, fragmented, layered, and flattened into consolidated planes. This method provides a necessary complication as her work exposes a singular truth: one image inherently possesses a multitude of others.
Supported by PATTISON Outdoor Advertising and Nikon Canada