Founded by Mark Hughes in 1980, Herbalife is now the number one health and wellness multi-level marketing company in the world. Herbalife is the premiere commercial cult with it’s Nutrition, Weight-Management, Energy-Fitness and Personal Care products like p90x3 available exclusively through more than 2.1 million independent distributors in 75 countries.
by Alaina Claire Feldman
The performance itself was a project of DIS magazine. DIS was invited by Josh Kline, the curator of the Skin So Soft, to submit a performance piece to the exhibition. I helped organize the event, and therefore hope to offer you some insight.
Five girls, all of the tween demographic, tricked out in outfits sponsored by Sketchers and Danskin were offered the opportunity to dance in front of a live audience to the Herbalife theme song. A professional choreographer spent time teaching the girls the Herbalife dance as it is performed and published on various youtube channels dedicated to upholding the image of the Herbalife brand.
I had initial doubts about turning the young girls into spectacles, but after meeting with them and their parents, it was very clear to everyone involved, the girls and the parents, that this was a performance that commented on tween fetish in late capitalism and not a personal attack on the dancers themselves. The parents were perfectly pleasant and it seemed they were just there to support their children, no absurdist theater whatsoever. Art meaning that it was an interpretation, not a parade. That the dancers themselves weren’t subjects because I don’t generalize like that, and I also don’t think you can fault a child for metanarratives that may sway their consumerism and social habits. The subject was the phenomena of Herbalife aligned with young impressionability.
That being said, I interpreted DIS’s idea to use the image of the tween as something similar to the “Young-Girl” as defined by Tiqqun. “Young Girl” (or tween, if you will) is not gendered here in the sense that you might assume, but she/he is the contemporary model citizen. She or he is a relation, a tension, alien. Tweens are so commonly reduced to blueprints constructed exclusively out of dominating rules, representations and values. The Young Girl is a figure of a total merging of one into a social totality that’s falling apart. Social power emanates from a relatively invisible force- the world of the authoritarian commodity. Understanding the Young Girl brings about questions of life forms and lifestyles and how humans conform to them today. Herbalife is a great example of one of these lifestyles where the social and capital become one. I think this performance is about severe power and severe vulnerability. That’s what DIS is good at: evaluating the realities that they and others make visible. When you read the piece in context of the exhibition it begs to question where are we going? How are these ideas about happiness and youth culturally fabricated and what does it leave for the future? Who, rather than what, is the product of Herbalife?