Reflections On Leaking Men And Abject Masculinities: Challenging Representations Of Male Identity In And Through Body-Based Performance Art
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Towards the end of the last century discussions on the representation of masculinity in male body-based performance art placed emphasis on the deconstruction of normative masculine identities. The focus of these investigations tended to position the image of masculinity within Lacan’s sexuation matrix, and as such, these representations were usually referred to as being phallic. That is, they reinscribed the behaviours, traits and characteristics of normative masculinity into the performance space. The central thrust of this practice-as-research thesis is that while some male artists deconstruct the performance of phallic masculinity, to challenge normative masculine ideologies, they often first reinscribe normativity onto their bodies. I argue that, while achieving a destabilisation, this approach does not take into consideration the multiplicity of masculine identities that emerge through the individual lived experiences of masculinity
This thesis proposes that the performance of my personal experiences of having a masculine identity, and the exploration of these through my male body, might offer an alternative challenge to normative masculinity. Deriving from performance practices that I refer to as ’muscular masculinity’ consideration is given to how I might make space in my work to encourage a focus on the sensorial qualities of having a masculine identity. I mean this in relation to, for example, the feelings of emotions such as shame, anxiety, and vulnerability that emerge as a result of challenging my own identity, and also the different corporeal pleasures I experience as a result of having a male body. In this thesis, I refer to the practice of attending to these sensorial qualities and the gaps that emerge through an intersubjective exchange in performance, as generosity. Furthermore, I argue that generosity can challenge normative representations of masculinity because it requires the male artist to struggle; to struggle with the incoherence of their identity, to struggle with their body, and to struggle with the insecurity of meaning making.
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