Nadine Norman’s Je suis disponible. Et vous? [I am available. And you?] is a website created together with an instillation presented at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, as part three of the artist’s series of projects entitled Je suis disponible 1 On the site’s homepage, we see the image of a young woman (the artist herself) lying on her stomach as she talks on the phone, in a position which calls to mind an ad for a dating agency. By clicking on the image, the user is led to the piece’s main menu. A second link found under the image leads to a description of the project, written by Sandra Grant Marchand, curator at the Museum. Je suis disponible’s main menu presents the user with a number of options: first, a small icon on the left-hand side opens up an interface in the foreground which shows miniatures of the artist in various poses, wearing jeans and a t-shirt with the words “I am available” written across the front. The phrase “This is not a…” appears above the miniatures. Underneath, two red cursors allow the user to change the artist’s pose and to complete the phrase by choosing among various designations: chick, tease, coquette, whore, witch, darling, blonde, trollop, etc. On the sides of the screen, there are fake advertising banners which lead to an online form the user is invited to fill out in order to be selected to “meet the available woman”. (The user who wishes to apply must provide a picture, choose a pseudonym, give his full name, age, and email address, and describe in 60 characters or less his fantasies, as well as his views on complicity, love, sex, family, work, and solitude.) Also in the main menu, three additional miniature photos of the artist act as links which lead to information about the project, to a series of short films in which the artist uses her own image to represent various stereotypes associated with “available” femininity, and to the profiles of other users who have applied to meet her. In the bottom right-hand corner, a link in the shape of a small envelope allows users to contact the artist (i.e. the “available woman”) directly via email.
The installation was shown at Montreal’s Museum of Contemporary Art between November 21st, 2002 and January 26th 2003. During this period, ads presenting the artist in different “available” situations and directing individuals to the website were distributed throughout the city. The profiles submitted by users who visited the site where actually studied by a marketing firm, with the help of focus groups, in order to determine which candidates were “worthy” of meeting the artist. Live individual encounters where then held at the Museum, and incorporated into the exhibit’s installations. (These encounters where also recorded on video by the artist.) The unrealistic expectations the users had developed based on the artist’s photos and short films were confronted with the unreality of the character of the artist playing the role of the “available woman”. The short films presented on the website, entitled “fantasy,” “complicity,” “love,” “sex,” “family,” “work,” and “solitude,” explore the fragmented image of womanhood which lies at the heart of our complex (and impossible) representation of Femininity, by showing the artist take on various roles: cultivated and diabolical, playful and accessible, modern and urban-dwelling, professional and refined, suburban and mischievous, domestic and insubstantial, patient and hard-working. The piece does indeed make an extensive use of exaggeration, caricature and parody. Ultimately, it is this approach that allows the artist to distance herself from the parodied object and to bring others to question it: what does it mean to be “available”? What defines our image of womanhood? As curator Sandra Grant Marchand states in her text: “The project offers the possibility of meeting and conversing, in which the blending of fiction and reality challenges our expectations with respect to our own availability and our conditioning about interpersonal communications” (Marchand, 2002). The phrase “submit yourself”, heard repeatedly as the user is invited to create his online profile, acts as a leitmotif in the piece. Its double meaning calls attention to the ambiguity of this play on seduction, critique, parody, and the body as object.
An English version of the website is available at : http://www.iamavailableandyou.com/.
- 1. I'm available (01) Lyon, 2001, dealt with the phenomenon of singles clubs; I'm available (02) Paris, 2001, offered a promenade where participants inevitably cross paths en route with one another encouraging the possibility to exchange partners.” (Marchand, 2002)