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  • Writer's pictureEloina Haines

Edythe Woolley

Edythe Woolley, Fishy – Work in Progress @ The Yard[1]


Edythe Woolley is a performance artist and drag king, making work in club and gallery spaces. She describes her work as feminist ‘because it challenges misogyny’ and as queer ‘because it hopes to challenge gender binaries’[2]. Her work is a fusion of vintage with pop culture, stemming from the contrasting stereotypes of men and women in 1920-1980s Hollywood films and advertisements. She observes how ideas of the ‘house-wife’ and ‘strong-man’ have or haven’t changed to shape society today.[3]



‘The female body is massively censored by society so all of my work is about un-censoring it - staging provocative images that act in opposition to what the female body is supposed to do or be seen to do in society’[7]

Her work aims to distort society’s idea of what it is to be femme, ‘mother’ or masculine by using the body as a sculpture, to ‘play on these binaries’[5]. In Fishy, Woolley uses her muscles (whilst in a headstand) to push out a fish from her vagina – this depicts physical strength, (which is traditionally attributed to male bodies) key to biologically female activities, such as giving birth. Similarly, my project uses the female body as a focal point to portray what is not typically expected of it. I explore the violent ‘ugliness’ in women which contrasts to what society deems acceptable to display – nurture, life-giving and submission. Performing the traditionally considered ‘masc’ attributes with my ‘femme’ body seeks to challenge the gender binaries Woolley describes. By presenting intimate moments which are usually reserved for privacy, I am ‘un-censoring’ my body.


The form of Wooley’s work is a series of surreal images. Some are durational like held poses (the headstand) to test the physical body and ‘emphasise the image’[6]. My project works similar in form to this as it episodically transforms from one sequence or image to the next.


Wooley uses DIY aesthetics and structures. She uses materials to manipulate the body. In Fishy, she cuts open her breasts (condoms filled with milk, Sellotaped over her chest) to release milk. These materials allow for easily deconstructed body parts and images. I work with a similar aesthetic and liquids (inherent to the physical experience and expulsions of a female body). I am also working with quickly destroyable body extensions throughout the piece, possibly incorporating clay.


References

[1] Fishy, created and perf. by Edythe Woolley, developed and supported by The Yard Theatre (The Yard Theatre, London, 1 December 2017).

[2] Manly Stanley Takes New York, dir. by Shelby Coley, perf. by Edythe E. Woolley, online video, YouTube, 22 March 2018 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T25noi3c6UE&t=45s> [accessed 28 March 2018].

[3] Edythe Woolley, Interview by Eloina Haines via Facebook Messenger, 19 October 2017.

[4] Woolley, Interview, 19 October 2017.

[5] Woolley, Interview, 19 October 2017.

[6] Woolley, Interview, 19 October 2017.

[7] Woolley, Interview, 19 October 2017.

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