Updated: Jun 20, 2018
The starting point for this project was a topic I explored in previous performances: motherhood. Previous work looked at the pressures on women to become mothers and to perform this archetype e.g. be all-loving and be expected to breastfeed a child in private. My positionality within this is as a woman who fears motherhood and has witnessed the destructive elements of it through my own mother. Through this making process however, these fears have lessened. During Julia Bardsley’s workshop, I did some free writing in persona. This allowed me to articulate how I was thinking about motherhood without censoring myself:
‘I feel contradictions in myself (in what is expected of me by family and society and what I want for myself) – Is what I want for myself (a childless, selfish, free life) real? Or is it a rebellion to these expectations?
…Maybe I want to be a mother…minus the pain, guilt, loneliness, pressure, empathy, OVERWHELMING, OVERBEARING, UNCONTROLLABLE LOVE MAGNIFIED x10000.
…I began to understand that my stance on motherhood had changed. I realised it was the individual pressures involved that were unappealing and that perhaps, I cannot comment on them directly in regards to motherhood without being a mother. Instead of questioning what we ‘know’ to be a mother, I began to ask what it is that we assume to be ‘woman’. In the same prose, I wrote:
‘What is it to be woman? To not quite walk in heels […] To burn and exaggerate with rage! To have the strength to under-exaggerate that, for the sake of others’To me, this explained my thinking of a woman in countries like Britain: the ongoing attempt to adhere to what is expected (e.g. to be ‘lady-like’), whilst not quite achieving it. This ‘not quite’ or ‘not at all’ – and where this happens, be it in small, unnoticed moments like a nip-slip or furies of rage behind closed doors - is what interests me. I am focusing on these private mishaps or so-called ‘failings’ of lady-hood to give the audience a sense of peering in on an intimate moment, usually hidden from the public for its supposedly ‘unattractive’ qualities. I want to display both clear moments of hidden womanhood - such as the ungodly positions one must assume to shave their vagina - interweaved with more abstract moments, depicting emotions of fury, loneliness, self-sufficiency and reliance. By seeing these images in public, I hope to normalise them for men and women alike, rather than keep them as unspoken material between equally primal humans. This basic, primality is what becomes hidden when society puts fluffy expectations of behaving ‘appropriately’ upon the sexes. I aim to present the basic, animal body on stage in contrast to its societal pressures in order to make them seem ridiculous.
As an extremely useful act of practical research into the natural body and expected constructs around it, I have grown out my body hair over the past 2months. The QM space is generally liberal, where societal expectations are opposed, yet on stepping into more central, conservative London spaces, people question and stare at things like body hair. Simply raising my arm to reveal my armpit now bears meaning. The subtle adjustment that some have to make when seeing a woman’s legs or armpits with hair evidences the gravitas of female ‘ideals’ in this society. My experience of this will feed into my piece both in form and concept.
My Work in Progress showing consisted of a series of fragmented images varying between vivacious cabaret and more delicate, tender tones to depict a stereotypical then a more private image of a woman. The feedback stated that the different tones and paces were engaging and vague in connections, though it was not necessary for them all to make sense. In light of this, my final piece will encompass an episodic structure with distinct shifts in tones. The images will be structured in order to have an audience laugh at something, then question why they are laughing and begin to think about some every-day pressures as laughable. The fragments are created from general expectations and primal emotional responses to them.