Here’s Why a Giant Steel Bra Has Appeared Outside the O2 in London
By Hilary Webb
If you find yourself anywhere near the O2 Arena in the next few months, you may just stumble across a giant stiletto, bra and corset, each cast in steel. The installation, presented by Gazelli Art House and positioned outside the NOW gallery in North Greenwich, is a showcase of artist Kalliopi Lemos’ Tools of Endearment.
Three out of four pieces of Lemos’ provocative collection are now on display on the Greenwich Peninsula, London’s new design and innovation district. “Bra,” “Stiletto Heel” and “Corset,” the latter of which is on view for the first time ever, are each created out of steel and weigh over 120kg each. Titled Tools of Endearment, the three works challenge ideas of femininity, power and likeability. While they can be considered as garments to restrict and embellish women, physically and otherwise, these three objects are just as much a means for women to manipulate men.
The works appear to be exhibited at the perfect moment in history as contemporary feminist discussions grip the world, with the centenary of some women in the UK winning the right to vote, as well as the momentum of the #MeToo and Times Up movements. Adding to the debate, the exhibition of these sculptures provokes further feminist discourse: Lemos discusses how the title, Tools of Endearment, comes from the idea that men and women manipulate one another to gain power in gendered wars. Rather than being titled “Tools of Control”, Lemos makes particular use of the word “endearment” to focus on what many people are really, perhaps secretly, fighting for: to be liked.
There is a cage-like aspect to the works too, but as art critic Gelly Grindaki notes, “Lemos’ Woman, not anymore enclosed in her embellishing costume, has arisen”. “The signified body has been liberated from its heavy uniform, from the roles that a male system of representation has imposed,” Grindaki adds, revealing a different reading of Lemos’ sculptures.
Kalliopi Lemos is a Greek-born, London-based artist, who is still working on the fourth and final addition to this collection. The artist explains that the unrealistic size and the fact they are made from steel contrasts with our preconceived ideas of these feminine items of clothing. Instead of being soft, pink and warm, they are strong, cold and powerful. Their curvaceous shapes fulfil one expectation, while the fact that such a strong metal has been shaped so fluidly defies another. The sculptures sit in their space outside the O2 almost as armour, ready for battle.
Gearing up the world for the continued fight for gender equality, the strength and resilience of feminine iconography is given a refreshing power and depth with this public placement, which will be on display for the next few months.
Hilary Webb is a freelance writer, focussing her writing on reproductive health and gender rights, literature, film, science and technology, especially FemTech, travel and a range of other interests. Read some of her other work at https://fictitiouslyhilary.wordpress.com/ or follow @Hilarysaysblaah or @fictitiouslyhilary
Title image by Marc Wilmot