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Work / Publication

Butts, bums and booty: Melani de Luca explores the omnipresence of bums in the media (NSFW)

Melani de Luca’s book Post-Butt looks beyond a good looking arse focusing on the “virality of images in our mediated society”.

It’s a book that started from personal curiosity after noticing the “omnipresence of the butt on different channels, especially Instagram and music videos,” she tells It’s Nice That. But what Melani particularly noticed was how much the image and placement of butts had altered over the last 20 years. “The camera got lower, the frames that show the butt last longer and the face is often cut or even completely out of the picture,” she says. Research followed and a theory developed: “the rise of the butt in media was not accidental”.

However rather than just posing this as a topic for discussion, Melani developed a book on the subject from her urge to open a platform on the subject. “The images of the butt are embedded in our culture and therefore have a huge influence on society and individual behaviour,” she explains. “Even though music and dance are primarily seen as entertainment, they have an indirect or sometimes direct political function. We could think that the phenomenon of the butt-selfie, also known as ‘belfie’, might be absurd, but the analysis of recent history make it suddenly appear logical. The virality of the buttocks starts from the digital domain but it has repercussions in the physical world.”

The book initially began as a project while Melani was studying for her master’s at Eindhoven’s design academy and was an intense process, taking a year to complete. A large part of this year was research, the backbone of the book’s purpose and content. “The research itself was extremely interesting for me as I continued to discover how ’bootyfication’ exists in many different contexts, from colonialism to hip hop. It influences art and society and is present in different media like film and the internet to dance and music videos.”

From a design perspective however it was the idea of the butt as a branding tool that fascinated Melani. For example, “Jennifer Lopez used her outstanding buttocks already in the 90s to celebrate her diversity,” says the designer. “Other celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj do the exact same thing, transforming the butt into a zone of empowerment. At the same time, mass and mainstream culture transformed it into a plastic illusion. The butt was a statement of diversity, then it became a standard to achieve, a paradox that we are unable to escape.”

Alongside the book Melani also created an installation displaying “what we usually watch privately on our phones,” into a series of butt-bearing pillows. Built to “trigger reactions, positive as well as negative of course,” her installation displayed the “awkwardness of lying with your head on photos of someone’s derrière, and the embarrassment to deal with these images in public” she explains.

Now that the book is out and popular among many publishing outlets, Melani describes its release as “something new and very satisfying,” she tells It’s Nice That. What the designer has enjoyed the most is sharing her in-depth research and thoughts, particularly seeing how people are taking the conversation further on social media channels. “For many, it was necessary to raise discussion about the use of social media in relation to the female body. For others, it’s rather outraging to be confronted with such content. My grandma for example still hasn’t forgiven me the choice of topic.”

Post-Butt is available via Onomatopee here.

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