1. True Body

“Is this how my ‘true body’ looks like?”

Part 1 in the Hairy Stories trilogy, True Body, explores the culture that sticks to our own skin. It is an attempt to break the boundary of my own intimate through a performative documentary, asking the question: How does my “true body” really look like? The film is available for free screening on this page.

Making the film

We wanted to audiovisually create a link between our, the filmmakers’, own cultural unconscious and a concrete practice: the shaving of body hair. It was a transgressing of own intimate boundaries, in a double sense: first, as a ‘domestic ethnography’[1]looking inwards instead of outwards through the means of the performance; second, by using myself and my own physical body as the object of the camera, meaning also spending many hours editing clips with the main character being myself. Not as a person, but as a body, putting the anthropologist’s double perspective at the edge.[2]

The film’s target is the viewer response. In this case, the shaving of the head hair defamiliarises the shaving practice. Also, the way the head- and body shaving happens; rash and ungentle, gives the impression of compulsion. The strangeness of the unexpected opens a window for a heightened awareness of the configurations of meanings around a topic or practice.[3] We start to grasp how the significances of body hair removal are culturally conditioned. In contrast, the conversation between the women in the sauna is kind and trusting, representing an opportunity of salvation in unison. The contrast between the scenes contributes to an alternative narrative, where a capitalistic ideal of freely chosen femininity is juxtaposed to a feeling of compulsion.

We are told that we should be happy when we shave our legs, so why does it feel so bad?

Still True Body
Still image from True Body (Hollerup, Byriel & Turner 2016). 

True Body, 2016. 5:14 min.

Directed, produced and edited by Louise Hollerup, Shannon Turner and Maja Byriel. Produced in Eye & Mind, Laboratory for Visual Anthropology.


[1] Michael Renov, 2004. The Subject of Documentary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

[2] Bill Nichols, 1994. Pp. 96-102. Blurred Boundaries – Questions of Meaning. Indianapolis, Bloomington: Indiana University Press

[3] Ibid.: 99