Karen Abadie


This thesis enquires into my lived experience of self-injury (cutting my own skin), asking to what extent can moving image, sound and performance in the context of art installation reveal an understanding of the processes of self-injury. I employ an embodied onto-epistemological methodology that blends artistic enquiry with active engagement with phenomenological and new materialist feminist theory. This investigation reveals a dynamic yet subtle relationship between the body-as-object and the body-as- subject, as initially described by Husserl as Leib and Körper (1990). I use 16mm film and performance in a haptic immersive installation environment to articulate these dynamic subtleties. Merleau-Ponty refers to this as ‘double belongingness’, whereby the lived body is ‘a being of two leaves, from one side a thing among things and otherwise what sees them and touches them’ (1968, p.137). My research articulates the importance of the subtle shifts from object to subject, and how they are reflected through the lived body, I discover and articulate the pain and distress of when this dynamic breaks. My practice research expresses through visual and affective means, the subtleties of the corporeal relationship between subject and object, in ways that I propose philosophical, psychological and sociological texts fail to do. By integrating material feminism theory (Alaimo and Hekman, 2008), with a materialist practice of 16mm analogue film and installation art practice, I articulate the lived experience of body-as-object and body-as-subject and of the dynamic relationship which, I argue, exists between them. Further, the materiality of 16mm analogue film enables me to articulate the ways in which female bodies are inscribed. As Kay Inckle writes, ‘gender is played out upon the body which is already marked as Other – female – through the norms of femininity’ (Inkle, 2007, p.92) which leads to an intensified process of self-objectification, further emphasising the ‘sense of the self as object’ (Inckle, 2007, p. 93). The embodied onto-epistemological methodology that I devised can be usefully employed by artists working with a embodied moving image installation practice. My research reveals new understandings of the relationship between body-as-object and body-as-subject that can be mapped onto current psychological models of dissociation and provides a critical framework for rethinking approaches to treatment of self-injury and broader mental health concerns.

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