Within Reach - detail
Tall View
distance view
Short View
view from below
detail view, tall
detail view, medium height
detail view, short
view from above
Within Reach
MIXED MEDIA INSTALLATION (Ultrachrome Prints mounted on Plexiglass)


The overwhelming majority of females seeking males online are looking for tall men; not only taller than themselves, but many set the minimum of their preferred range at least five inches taller than themselves. Much has been written about, and many artists have investigated, our male-dominated society’s demands placed on women’s bodies (weight, bust size, etc.) but few have questioned women’s bias towards height, despite it being primarily determined by genetics and having no apparent inherent basis for attractiveness. Desire for tall men may be driven consciously or unconsciously by the pressure on women to have smaller, thinner bodies; but favoring the tall ultimately reinforces the system by perpetuating the physical dominance of men.

Within Reach uses women’s photos taken from online dating profiles. The photos are mounted on top of small (2.5” square) plexiglass panels, and the panels are mounted perpendicular to the wall (like shelves) at the height of the minimum partner’s height specified in their online profile. Since the photos are on top of the panels, viewers that are shorter than the specified height will not be able to see the photos; all they will see is the underside of the glass panels. The installation is lit to create a minimalist aesthetic, creating a pattern with the shadows. The installation includes at least 30-40 panels, to illustrate the ubiquity of the demands for height; the profiles are chosen as a representative sample of Bay Area women seeking men on Match.com.

Viewers engage with the installation differently, depending on their height. Shorter viewers, including most women, are not able to see most of the photos, and are instead left with the feelings of restriction from not being able to see the photos, which are ostensibly the artwork that’s on display. Within Reach was designed illustrate the universality of this bias, and to have viewers see and question their own position within it. The bias towards height in attraction serves as a virtual glass ceiling for shorter men; some break through but it is as much an institutionalized social barrier as the glass ceiling in the workplace.


Fetish: The Culture of Fear and Desire, Kearny Street Workshop, 2007

Copyright © Derek Chung