Rihanna’s body is now actually a work of art. At this year’s Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Colombian mixed media artist Juan Sebastián Peláez presented a giant cutout image of the star with her head removed and face superimposed onto her chest. The piece, titled Ewaipanoma (Rihanna), is the latest in a series of works featuring headless celebrities and athletes with facial features placed on their upper bodies. The image, inspired by “drawings from sixteenth-century explorers of the New World, who on returning home described having encountered so-called ‘Blemmyae,’ headless natives with faces on their upper, naked bodies,” has flooded the internet from Twitter to MTV.
Peláez’s series represents the giant nature of celebrity, as well as the objectification of celebrity culture. The artist uses images of superstars in bikinis or invasive paparazzi photos for his work and in doing so, exposes the microscope celebrities exist under, while maximizing it through display. By removing their heads, Peláez suggests the shallowness of our culture’s obsession—the specifics of these people, their reality, don’t matter when their primary role is as an object for us to gawk at. The imposition of the subject’s face on their chest is representative of the “sometimes monstrous body modifications typical of celebrity culture,” while also referencing “longstanding projections of otherness.”