"Why dolls exist? For some people, a doll is their best “friend;” a familiar “person” to whom one can confide their most deep desires and secrets. An almost human being that becomes a reflection of oneself. Young children play with dolls; they dress them, take care of them or destroy them. Science suggests that kids until a certain age believe that everything has a soul. But kids themselves resemble dolls since in many cases are being treated like that by their parents. They are being dressed with their best clothes and other accessories to become beautiful. And yet, older people, who have passed the age of playing with dolls, try to maintain one of the most important features that describes a doll: youth and thus, beauty. A doll does not get old in appearance. It gets old in peoples’ eyes.
Barbie doll, for instance, for many people in western as well as in eastern societies is their dream. It has become a universal icon, which influences people from their birth to their mature age, at which many people wish to look like. In Japan, which has a long tradition in doll craftsmanship, hina-dolls are given to baby girls when they get born. Usually, the doll is removed from the girl’s familiar environment when she gets married. In that sense, hina dolls mark a specific period in peoples’ lives, a liminal space from birth to marriage, which makes them symbols of a transition. Hina doll as a symbol promises the well marriage of a daughter and her happiness. When the doll makes its life circle and fulfill its promise is being burnt in a funeral as the tradition designates.
Thus, we could say that in contemporary societies dolls act as powerful symbols that affect people and shape identities. Broadly speaking, dolls are present in each stage of people’s lives: a baby plays with dolls and a parent treats his child as a doll, but the parent at times resembles dolls too. Indeed, dolls play a crucial role to societies; one that starts from a familial circle and expands in the broader circle of society and in cases can reach the world.
Coming back to my original question “why dolls exist?,” I should rephrase it since the importance of a doll is not why it exists but rather “what can dolls do?”. But as I tried to explain before people resemble dolls and dolls resemble people. This unique feature of dolls, meaning, that a doll reflects its “owner,” must be seen as an advantage and must be used for good cause. The advantage is that the people that represent the doll can send it as an ambassador on their behalf. If dolls can affect people and shape identities, then it is on peoples’ hands how they will use them. Doll is the medium. In other words, what someone should think is: “What People Can Do.” A doll can be the carrier of a meaningful message. Let’s find it!"
Paris Legakis, 2015
born 1981, Athens, Greece, currently lives and works in Athens, Greece
HB VI Artist
Paris Legakis is a multidisciplinary artist, activist and theorist researching how art can be beneficial for society and influential to politics. He has travelled to many different places worldwide conducting field researches and experimenting with different art practices of social engagement that aim to reveal different perspectives of everyday life and foster the idea of social change. Meditation is fundamental in his life that he incorporates many times to his projects. He has written the manifesto Claim your Anger, on politics and political art, and he has created his own methodology Irregular Temporary Interactions (I.T.I). He studied in NYU, Performance Studies (MA), where he was awarded for Outstanding MA Work and in Bauhaus University-Weimar, Public Art and New Artistic Strategies (MFA), Germany. In 2009 he graduated from Athens School of Fine Arts. His projects have been displayed internationally. Paris research interests focus on memory and emotions, geopolitical and social borders, language and translation.
Description of work at HB Saitama 2015:
In 1924 the Immigration Act prohibited Asian people from immigrating to the US. In order to ease the relationship between Japan and the US a doll exchange project took place between the embassies. That is how the “Japanese Friendship Dolls,” known also as “Japanese Ambassador Dolls,” were created.
In the ex-dormitories of the Togyoku Doll Company, which participated in the exchange of the “Japanese Friendship Dolls,” I invited its current president to discuss about the role of the dolls in the Japanese society and the possibility for the creation of a new doll, the “Messenger Doll”. In the video, footage shows young children walking on a corridor for a ceremony, who are dressed traditionally with kimonos and resemble fashion models on catwalk. The work questions the social role of the dolls that can obtain beyond their aesthetic significations, by intervening as ambassadors to geopolitical areas where people cannot easily go and alongside it correlates the aesthetic side of the dolls to people’s preoccupation for youth and beauty.