Fondazione Prada presents “Surrogati. Un amore ideale” (Surrogate. A Love Ideal), an exhibition curated by Melissa Harris, from 21 February to 22 July 2019 at the Osservatorio venue in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan.
Comprising a selection of 42 photographic works by Jamie Diamond (Brooklyn, USA, 1983) and Elena Dorfman (Boston, USA, 1965), the project explores the notions of familial, romantic and sexual love. Both artists focus on a specific and unconventional aspect of this universal theme: the emotional link between a man or a woman and a synthetic representation of a human. As explained by Melissa Harris, “together, Diamond’s and Dorfman’s work presented in ‘Surrogati’ vividly and nonjudgmentally documents the interactions of humans with their lifelike, inanimate companions.”
In her series “Forever Mothers” (2012-2018) and “Nine Months of Reborning” (2014), Jamie Diamond documented the life of an outsider art making community called the Reborners, a group of self-taught female artists who hand-make, collect and interact with hyper-realistic dolls that fulfill a desire for motherhood. In her other exhibited project titled “I Promise to be a Good Mother” (2007-2012), Diamond played the role of a perfect mother, dressing up in her own mother’s clothes and interacting with Annabelle, a reborn doll. Inspired by and named after a diary she kept as a girl, the project evolved into an exploration of the complexity of social stereotypes and cultural conventions that surround and shape the relationship between mother and child.
“Still Lovers” (2001-04), a series of photographs that brought Elena Dorfman international acclaim, focuses on the domestic lives of men and women who devote themselves to lifesize, anatomically realistic sex dolls. Her photographs explore the emotional ties between humans and perfectly formed synthetic women, forcing us to evaluate our own notions of love and the value of an object that has the power to replace a human being. The artist’s interest was not to exploit the deviancy of these sexual surrogates, but rather to reveal the fascinating world of intimacy between flesh and silicone.
Both photographers portrayed these lifelike surrogates as desired, fetishized, and idealized beings, “living” as such with their flesh and blood mothers and partners, and sometimes with their immediate families as well. As stated by Melissa Harris, “by showing these vignettes of traditional domesticity, love, and/or eroticism, Dorfman’s and Diamond’s representations take on an unexpected poignancy.”