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Shampoo mythology : the object, its meaning, its influences

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Phillips, Anna 1997 , 'Shampoo mythology : the object, its meaning, its influences', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis begins by examining the proposition that advertising appropriates symbolic,
historical, and religious mythologies related to hair (head-hair being just one of our material
culture definitions of the feminine) and then re-invests this signification and iconography
into the shampoo bottle and its contents. The investigation considers the symbolic origins and
relationships between hair, plastic and shampoo. Within the design and construction of the
shampoo bottle's form- opalescent coated and soft feminised designs; its contents- thick,
wholesome and creamy liquids; and its written text- didactic instructions and soothing
reassurances, are unspoken messages designed not only to reinforce attitudes about hygiene
and acceptable cleanliness levels but equally to act as signifiers related to identity, social
position and confinement.
The art objects incorporate familiar discarded plastic, such as early domestic Tupperware, and
more recently plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles. Consumption of these objects is based upon
the societal beliefs and myth with which they are imbued.1 Pastel-shaded Tupperware
exemplifies feelings about the nuclear Anglo-Saxon family - movable, stackable and disposable.
adherening to the values of consumption and modernity.
There is a celebratory aspect to these mass-produced consumer items, something which Roland
Barthes identified when he wrote of the magical properties of plastic: 'Plastic can be jewels as
well as buckets.'2
The thesis explores, this 'misunderstood' medium. Plastic is investigated as a 'wonder'
medium - transformed from its utilitarian beginnings and status. I have created works of a
celebratory nature which examine its lyrical mythical potential as well as its utilitarian
function. The sculptural works explore how plastic and hair have common concerns with
artifice and appearance. Shampoo bottle text makes constant reference to the word
'natural'. Plastic is a polymer that established its identity as an imitator of the 'natural'. I
have identified five 'types' of shampoo and conditioner bottles, aimed at stereo-typical
representations of women and their defined environments. I see the plastic shampoo bottle
as an object of desire.
'Shampoo Mythology' constantly refers to the 'Ultra Body'. An unending quest for the Ultra
Body in our material culture has materialised because of the insistence of idealised visions
of women, resulting in ceaseless dissection and fragmentation of the body from the self.
'Shampoo Mythology' is a deliberate construction of the mystique and spectacle of an object,
the plastic shampoo bottle; a mythology which far surpasses the consequences and
limitations of the object's intended function as a hair cleaner.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Phillips, Anna
Keywords: Shampoos
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1998. Includes bibliographical references.

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