Are You Known To Us? Inscribing a Gendered Body Through Play in the Public Built Environment
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This thesis begins from a concern over the perceived lack of female involvement in performances of play in the public built environment. Its starting point is the male-dominated practice of skateboarding. Although a popular creation myth presents skateboarding as a subversive, socially resourceful activity born from the natural landscape (the riding of waves by surfers), it has since become consumed within a masculine commercial culture. It is used as an exemplar, because of my own history of involvement in the culture, which allows me to question the presence women occupy within its spaces and practices.
The practice at the centre of my practice-as-research methodology is a type of playing that has been created in response to skateboarding. It utilises costuming to present a gendered body. One of the first costumes references depictions of ‘Alice’ from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a presentation that has enabled the consideration of the mythical status of a generic ‘fictional girl’ within public consciousness. My approach to playing is analysed with reference to Lefebvre’s theory of rhythmanalysis, allowing me to consider how play operates within the public built environment.
Several practitioners (for example, Jill Magid, Fiona Templeton and Lottie Child) have made performance interventions into public space. They use techniques, particularly the avoidance of spectacle, contact between strangers, and autotelic activities, to disrupt a culture of ‘commerce masculinity’ – which is manifested through possessive spectatorship and authoritarian ownership. Foucault’s theory of panopticism is used to articulate this exercise of power. In reference to Magid and Templeton in particular, a concept of ‘romantic space’ is proposed in which intersubjectivity forms the basis of an antidote to this.
The final development of my practice is articulated as an act of inscribing an unknowable feminine archetype that resists the commodification and forms of spectatorship inherent in spaces of ‘commercial masculinity’, and attempts to engender ‘romantic space’.
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