Elise Dawson The Ideal Make Body

The Ideal Make Body (5) - Elise DawsonThe Ideal Make Body (4) - Elise DawsonThe Ideal Make Body (3) - Elise DawsonThe Ideal Make Body (2) - Elise DawsonThe Ideal Make Body - Elise Dawson

PLATFORM centre is pleased to announce the exhibition The Ideal Make Body featuring new work by Elise Dawson (MB), one of our 2021 PLATFORM Photography Award Winners. 

EXHIBITION | 11 March – 26 March 2022


My conceptual practice examines the ontological implications of photography, painting, and collage. To investigate the construction of art and identity, I experiment with visual and cultural conventions of art, celebrity, gender, and photography. I probe the capacity of images to change and expand reality beyond merely documenting it. 

“This is the ideal ‘make’ body,” refers to a series of jokes parodying a tweet posted by Canadian-American conservative media personality Steven Crowder that highlighted a picture of Russian heavyweight MMA fighter Fedor Vladimirovich Emelianenko as an example of the ideal male physique. The tweet ends “This is what peak performance looks like.” The idea that the self is ‘performed,’ that it is made through action, rather than having a prior existence, has been a major methodological shift in our understanding of human experience. Philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler’s theory of performativity further troubled psychology’s predominant understanding of an essential, stable self and, in turn, the ideal of a singular female standpoint or experience in feminist theory. Her conclusion is that if sex and gender are both creations, not only is there no need in distinguishing the two categories, but they are also potentially susceptible to change and can be “undone.” Butler’s central claim is that “what is called gender identity is a performative accomplishment.” Radical new perspectives on the self are possible as a result of Butler’s interpretation of performativity.

 My creative impulse is to destabilize my own identities. I believe identity, like an artwork, is not fixed but rather, a concept with multiple meanings, inviting reevaluation and new narration. I take ‘selfies’– fast self-portraits, made with my smartphone’s camera– and Photoshop them into selected works of art or photographs of celebrities, images readily available on the internet. This controlled process of imagining myself differently, or ‘undoing,’ allows me to feel compassion for myself. Psychologist Kristin Neff argues self-compassion, unlike self-esteem, is not contingent. Self-compassion is holding pain without being overwhelmed. My artworks provide the emotional safety I need to see myself clearly. In these images, I embrace myself with a new sense of kindness, connectedness and emotional balance. They are images of my active engagement in my own artistic production of self, not performances to placate others. 

Self-becoming is a painful but necessary process that necessitates the continual annihilation of one’s identity in order to achieve the status of human being. It is Nietzche’s amor fati or, “love of one’s fate,” used to describe a worldview in which everything that occurs in one’s life, including suffering and loss, is viewed as beneficial or, at the very least, essential– to accept those circumstances that were unauthentic to oneself as important steps in one’s life path; to appreciate them because they are guiding you to your destiny, to your becoming. Essentially, I am an artist and an arts worker. I am queer and non-binary. I am neurodivergent and Mad. I am a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. I am a Scorpio Sun, a Sagittarius Moon and a Gemini Rising. I have these ways of telling you everything about myself without actually telling you anything about myself. Joshua Gamson, an American scholar and author, calls attention to a general dilemma of identity politics: fixed identity categories are both the basis for oppression and the basis for political power. I am an artist invested in understanding the being and becoming, even the echoes, of art and self. 

Masks and proof of vaccination are mandatory, please ensure social distance is maintained and stay home if you are feeling sick. PLATFORM is an accessible venue. For the duration of the exhibition, PLATFORM will be open by appointment. Please email admin@platformgallery.org to schedule your viewing. 24 hour notice is appreciated.


Elise Dawson graduated from the School of Fine Art at the University of Manitoba in 2012 where they served as president of Students of Fine Art and was a founding member of Chesterfield Magazine, a freely distributed publication curated from emerging artist submissions. Since graduating, Elise Dawson has been employed within the film industry and commercial art galleries in Winnipeg and Toronto. Currently, they are responsible for art inventory and photography at Mayberry Fine Art. Dawson is an active champion of their artistic community. They previously served as Chair of the Board of Directors at Mentoring Artist’s for Women’s Art. Elise Dawson completed MAWA’s Foundation Mentorship program with Val Klassen as well as brief mentorships with Ming Hon (Performance) and Diana Thorneycroft (Bodies of Work). They presented a solo exhibition at Flux Gallery in 2016. In 2017, Elise Dawson completed a six-week artist residency in Puebla, Mexico which closed with a public performance on Día de Muertos, at Decentered Gallery. They were a 2017-2018 participant of ace.art.inc’s Cartae open school program when they published their first collection of poetry, “SEX DEATH AND/”, a raw examination of loss and desire. In 2020, Dawson was a new media artist in residence at videopool.