Forever Young 2000

Forever Young, 2000

Suzy Lake, Forever Young, 2000
3 chromogenic prints, laminated, 210 x 107 cm each
Georgia Scherman Projects, Toronto

In Forever Young, a series of three chromogenic prints of Lake playing guitar, dancing, and singing as she holds a microphone, the artist poses a question to the aging female body: “What can I do that Brittany Spears cannot do?”  Recognizing that she was often regarded as “passing” for younger than her age, Lake points to the troubling ideal of beauty that privileges youth. In response, she invents as her alter ego Suzy Spice, a girl band member who appears in both live performance and photographs probing this mainstream obsession with youth and celebrity culture.


Suzy Lake, Your Field of Contestants, This Week’s Top Ten and Voting Material, 2004, 96 chromogenic prints, bowl, dais, and ballots, installation at Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto.

In the early 2000s Lake became interested in the public response to reality TV— specifically, American Idol and the Canadian version, Canadian Idol. She documented the audition process in Whatcha Really, Really Want, 2003, presenting her photographs in two grids accompanied by the lyrics from the Spice Girls’ 1996 breakout hit, “Wannabe.” In Your Field of Contestants, 2004, she arranged individual photographic portraits of contestants performing for the imagined audition camera. The cult of celebrity has a direct impact on the visibility of certain bodies at the cost of others, and Suzy Spice, mimicking the grotesque ideals to which the reality television contestants must aspire, ironically becomes one of the rare older women who is permitted a “pass.”


Forever Young is the photographic performance of Lake’s glam persona, “Suzy Spice.” Dressed in leopard-print pants and a crop top, wearing thick-heeled sneakers, Spice both looks defiantly into the camera and appears lost in the performance of singing and dancing. As in many earlier photographs, Lake interrupts the veneer of the photograph with a hand-drawn mark. The photograph of Spice with her arm raised above her head, her fingers making the peace sign, is autographed “Forever Young—Suzy.” Against the white backdrop, the photographs appear as promotional images for a fabricated rock star. A series of gelatin prints, including Ciccolina Bar #2, 1999/2000, and The Kindness of Gentlemen, 1999–2001, work to authenticate the existence of Spice as a prolific social figure and important member of a group. They are juxtaposed with photographs of prescription medication for menopause—the “secret” behind her youthful veneer. In these works, she pole dances, performs among other Spice Girl clones, and is “felt up” by her male companions.


Lake’s larger project also included “readymades”—various items of “merch,” such as throw pillows, which bear Suzy Spice’s image. They recall Dada gestures of performance and the construction of alter egos, confirmed by photographic documentation, such as the “autoportraits” undertaken by Claude Cahun (1894–1954). The commodity object, in turn, offers the public an up-close brush with celebrity.


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