These days it is almost impossible not to stumble upon features, banners and adverts reminding us about Black Friday and Christmas shopping lists. It is indeed that dreaded time of the year when everybody seems ready to suggest us what to buy for our dearest ones. Calendars are an obvious choice, but, if you think they are boring and useless in our digital age and can't find anything genuinely original, think twice, because there is one out there that will make a great present for art, fashion and photography fans - Dina Goldstein's "Modern Girl" 2017 calendar.
The latter features images from Goldstein's latest photographic series inspired by the Chinese tradition and by iconic advert images produced around the 1930s in Shanghai.
If you are familiar with Goldstein's work, you will know that the artist calls herself a "Pop Surrealist" since she usually borrows pop themes, colours, elements and images, and plays with them in a powerful way.
A few examples? In her "Fallen Princesses" (2007-2009) series she explored the "happily ever after" motif in a tragicomic way, destroying the myth of the joyful ending by showing a series of Disney princesses in unlikely places and poses, from a Cinderella characters getting drunk in a seedy bar to Belle (from Beauty & The Beast) resorting to plastic surgery.
In "The Dollhouse", we discover instead that Barbie and Ken do not have the dreamy and glamorous life of the plastic icons we all imagined. Little details such as perilously high platform shoes at Ken's feet reveal he has been a victim of an imposed marriage, but has finally decided to break from his chains and reveal his individuality (while Barbie gets extremely frustrated…).
Deities from polytheistic to Abrahamic traditions find themselves dealing with everyday situations in Goldstein's series entitled "Gods Of Suburbia", that challenges ancient ethics and morals in a society characterized by materialism.
Consumerism is explored in a very clever way also in Goldstein's "Modern Girl": the Chinese pin ups look beautifully serene and elegantly sophisticated, but in the images they are just exploited to sell fictitious consumer products that comment about our obsessions with beauty, health and wellness.
One of the sophisticated poster girls is surrounded by an avalanche of pink perfumes, nail varnish bottles, luxury luggage, cars, shoes and champagne; other girls are instead used to advertise a selection of hilariously bizarre products. The "Insta World" advert promises everything instantly - from beauty and youth to sex; there are popsicles that simulate feelings of love; sprays that re-create the smell of pizza and fried chicken; fresh air tins from Canada air (a way to sort out China's pollution problems), a Revenge Agency (because we all need to revenge after all…), human organs that grow in 30 days from a tissue sample, a memory device and idea pills.
While the original Chinese adverts that used pin ups to imitate American ads embodied the symbolical Western political and imperial dominance, these adverts reveal the collective misery of consumerism, a world in which beauty and kitsch are juxtaposed and where the female body is once again exploited to sell products. The images also create a further dichotomy between traditions and modern times.
You can admire Goldstein's new photographic tableaux at the Virginie Barrou Planquart Gallery, Paris (until 27 November), or you can opt to see the series every day in your house or at your office by getting the "Modern Girl" calendar from Goldstein's site. The calendar will not guarantee you get your Insta Youth or Insta Beauty fix, but the images will surely make your day.