Meat Mirror | Jay Younger & Lisa O’Neill

Review of May 9 performance by Elise Lawrence.

A ten-minute performance art piece in the Mappin’s Nursery Share House, Meat Mirror used video projections and physical theatre to blur the lines between beauty and horror.

A collaboration between Jay Younger and Lisa O’Neill, Meat Mirror is a condemnation of social media and the normalisation of cosmetic surgery to achieve the picture-perfect body. The performance focused especially on enhancement of the buttocks, although breast augmentation is widely considered the most popular procedure, and the “big booty” popular culture phenomenon which hypersexualises celebrity bodies and positions them as aspirational. In the past decade, these have predominantly been the bodies of women of colour (images of Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez made appearances in Meat Mirror, among many others), or those seeking to imitate these body types through airbrushing and/or augmentation (perhaps most famously the Kardashians and Jenners).

Lisa O’Neill performed as the protagonist of the piece, with movements reminiscent of synchronised swimming as she splashed and sashayed in a pool of water. Creative costume construction by Leah Shelton saw the protagonists’ backside swelling until it impeded her movement and exhausted her, an allegory for the potential health risks of cosmetic procedures.  

Reflected in the protagonist’s mirror and onto the wall beside her, animation by Georgie Pinn showed a glittering waterfall. The endless gush of this ‘natural beauty’ transformed into the endless scroll of Instagram as O’Neill preened in front of the mirror, eventually including graphic footage and animation of a butt lift procedure. Set design that included an inverted dresser cemented the idea of social media as distorting our self-image. Sound design by Guy Webster and lighting design by Geoff Squires helped to establish a clear mood and build the tension to a frenzy alongside O’Neill’s increasingly frantic movements.

Meat Mirror was a provocative and polished piece of performance art but, as a standalone work, I did not feel that it contributed anything new or nuanced to the conversation surrounding social media, self-image, and cosmetic surgery.

Meat Mirror will be performed at Mappin’s Nursery Share House, West End, on Saturdays and Sundays from May 8-30. The installation can be viewed during opening hours (9:00am to 5:00pm). Ticketing and further information is available on the event page.

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