Returning the Gaze – Perpetual (male)surveillance

Created by Behnaz Farahi and supported by Universal Robots for ANNAKIKI’s Milan Fashion Week, ‘Returning the Gaze’ explores the complicity of the fashion industry with female objectification and sexual harassment. Comprised of a female model wearing a spacesuit-like outfit and accompanied by four robotic arms, the gaze of the model is directed back at the viewer, extended and enhanced through ‘cyborgian’ technologies. The cameras track and capture the movements of the model’s eyes, and enlarging and displaying them on four monitors mounted moving around on robotic arms glaring back at the observers.

Fashion is an important medium for the production of culture. Yet the fashion industry has long been complicit within a tradition of female objectification and sexual harassment. Women’s bodies are regularly objectified within the fashion industry. Moreover, women have come to absorb this condition unconsciously as a form of the internalized male gaze. As feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey, has observed, the male gaze serves to depict women as the object of pleasure for the heterosexual male viewer. It is as though women are under perpetual surveillance from the male gaze.

The project questions whether women could use technology to extend and amplify their response. If we were able to do so on the catwalk itself, where the female model is often subject to sexual harassment through various forms of ‘looked-at-ness’, what uncanny feelings would this evoke and what strategies of resistance would it promote.

This project brings together robotics, fashion, design, feminism and critical thinking in order to critique the asymmetry of social and political power relations between men and women.

Created with 4 x Industrial Robotic Arms (UR10e), Monitors, a camera and Oculus VR.  Software includes Unity (C#), Rhino (Grasshopper) and OBS Studio. 

Project Page | Behnaz Farahi