In a technologically mediated culture the human body has become the nexus of new ideals which move it further away from ‘nature’. This lecture will explore the relationship between technology and the ideal of the body beautiful, in particular a body devoid of body hair.

In contemporary western culture body hair is becoming a taboo for both women and men. The ideal now is a smooth and shiny skin, not unlike the metal sheen of machines. Several overlapping cultural practices, such as commercials, fashion photography, pornography, sports and fitness, science fiction and cyber art, support the reconfiguration of the human body as hairless. Body hair is typically a marker that polices significant boundaries: between human – animal, adult – child, male – female, and man – machine. By analyzing images from fashion photography, cinema and digital art, this lecture explores issues of materiality and disembodiment in the digital age. Ultimately, the ideal of hairless body, the ‘smoothie’, is understood as a becoming-machine.

Anneke Smelik is professor of Visual Culture at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. Her latest book (in Dutch) is: ‘Ik cyborg. De mens-machine in populaire cultuur’ (2012). She recently edited The Scientific Imaginary in Visual Culture (2010) and co-edited Technologies of Memory in the Arts (2009); and Bits of Life: Feminism at the Intersections of Media, Bioscience, and Technology (2008). She is project leader of the research project “Dutch Fashion Identity in a Globalized World”. Her research interests include the performance of authenticity in fashion, digital art and culture, and multimedia literacy.