Bodycloth in Performance Art
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Bodycloth is a term coined to describe a third entity which emerges when the boundaries between body and cloth (as separate elements) collapse. This artistic research thesis analyses a variety of inter-relations between body and cloth, as well as various modes of adornment and utilisations in order to understand the performance, experience, and presence of bodycloth in performance art. Drawing upon a wide range of contemporary and historical examples of textiles represented in relation to the body in art history – including as sculpture, painting, dance, tableau vivant and performance art – the main method of this research investigation is the production and execution of live performance. That is, it is primarily through artworks that I choreograph myself that I investigate body and cloth (also referred to interchangeably as fabric or textile) as material and cultural phenomenon, excavating and reflecting upon the embodied knowledge and processes as a maker using textiles in search of bodycloth. Taking a feminist approach, I contextualise my research in relation to other artists such as Yoko Ono, ORLAN, Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, and Marina Abramović alongside critical feminist theorists such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Laura Mulvey, Julia Kristeva, and Judith Butler.
Early chapters examine semiotic processes, whereby textiles in relation to the body are staged and framed in terms of their meaning-making capabilities in performance art. The thesis then shifts from considering how cloth and body operate meaningfully in performance, to the cultural implications and revelations which arise as a result, especially those related to the re-presentation of identity and gendered religious practice. In later chapters, I discuss how my performance research attempts to destabilise binary assumptions which uphold and sit within the mechanics of patriarchal power. As a whole, the thesis demonstrates how body and cloth can form part of a resistant feminist methodology revolving around re-presentations of women and womanhood, offering a tool for fluid self-stylisation. In addition, the emergence of bodycloth realised through processes of 'indwelling' and 'sensorial play' opens up an emancipatory third space existing beside/beyond the realm of representation. Alongside this written element of the thesis, a live performance forms part of my submission as a whole. Details of this performance are shared in the conclusion.
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