Through biographical fiction, gruesomely gory folk tales, ‘Fifties B-Movie homages, installations, illustrations, costumes and a few incredibly serendipitous references to US sitcom Married with Children, Abigail Jacqueline Jones’ solo debut Anguish of the Fifty-Foot Woman takes a deep dive into Western cultural portrayals of female giants. Taking its name from the iconic 1958 Allied Artists cult classic, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman - which features Allison Hayes as its titular monster, Nancy Archer, who attempts to take revenge upon a world that stigmatised her neurodivergence and a husband who mistreated her, as she is enlarged to superhuman scale following an encounter with an alien spaceship - Anguish follows a trio of female giants attempting to eschew the shackles of a system of gendered norms that demand smallness and weakness from women, embrace their inherently gender-subversive bodies, and transform themselves into ‘monsters on their own terms’ - fighting for the liberation of ‘abnormal’ bodies and souls from the systems of oppression that bind them.
Dripping with Americana, set amongst secretive laboratories and military testing grounds in the Sierra Nevada, the first of these narratives analyses the supernaturally sized giantess as pornographic puppet of patriarchy, whose destructive power is determined solely by the imagination of the men who fetishise her, and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in pathologising female largeness in the second half of the twentieth century, enforcing gender-normative smallness through prescriptions of oestrogens to stunt growth. The exhibition’s titular performance follows one scientist’s goal to bring down NO-MA’AM - the ‘National Organisation of Medics Against Amazonian Masterhood,’ a fictitious company infamous for preying on tall young girls’ insecurities, and selling them a ‘cure’ in the form of shrinking serums - and the unexpected consequences of her methods of doing so: her accidental transformation into a skyscraper-sized giant, who despite possessing the strength to demolish whole cities in mere moments, has rather less ability than appearances suggest to demand the societal change she seeks.
Fictionalised stories centring two historical female giants constitute the remainder of the show. Drawn from tales of abuse and dehumanisation suffered by performing freaks in centuries past, and by the continued objectification of adolescent girls of extreme height today, A Monster on her Own Terms is a piece of performative storytelling inspired by Trijntje Keever, a seventeenth-century Dutch girl and life-long travelling freak-show attraction who stood eight feet, four inches tall at the time of her death at the age of seventeen. A further collection of costume, set and prop experiments for a future piece of film work, inspired by the life of nineteenth-century giant and former human exhibit at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, Anna Swan, round out the exhibition.