During Poppy Jacksons workshop we did an exercise that explored the mouth. I stood opposite Poppy for 5 mins with my fingers inside her mouth, and hers inside mine. We explored eachothers mouths; feeling the structure, the textures, listening to the sounds, exploring the size… It was an incredibly intense experience. At first it felt incredibly awkward, I was very self conscious of my mouth and my teeth. Were they clean?! Did my breath smell?! At first these sorts of trivial questions flooded through my mind, but it didn’t take long for me to become so immersed in Poppy’s mouth that all of my self conscious thoughts ebbed away.

I was amazed at how incredibly complex and fascinating the mouth was, and at the fact that I hadn’t really given it much attention before. It is such an interesting thing that is used in so many ways. It can be the source of extreme pleasure, but also extreme pain. We use it to speak, to chew, to taste. The tongue is strong but difficult to fully grip. It can be firm and also soft. It is agile as it moves and flicks and licks. It’s form transforms; it can be long and thin one second and short and fat the next. These things all may seem obvious as I write them, but when you experience someone else’s mouth in this way it is surprising . To feel a mouth with only your fingers is strange. If I were to touch my tongue I would feel it through my tongue as much as my fingers, but to experience someone else’s turns the mouth into a mysterious unknown land.

As I pushed my fingers into Poppy’s mouth I felt slightly embarrassed at how sexual it seemed. The mouth and the lips feel so similar to the vagina, and obviously there are the connections with oral sex. The mouth suddenly felt like a site of vulnerability when surrendered to the experience of another. Yet this vulnerability is juxtaposed with power… the only thing stopping me from biting, was me; and so this power play between surrender and control was something that seemed to come out of doing this exercise with another person, opposed to doing it to yourself. Through this experience the mouth became an incredibly powerful and interesting land to me and I knew I wanted to explore it further when I returned to the studio.

So, I have since been using the mouth as site to respond to. I have been experimenting with mark making and also object making.

I chewed paper to make a pulp. I liked how the processing of the paper from one form to another using the mouth seemed to reference the body as a system of processes. The act of chewing related to digestion and the resulting pulpy pile seemed to correspond well. I left the pile over the weekend and when I returned I was surprised to see how the pile had discoloured. I am assuming that the bacteria in the saliva has affected the paper in a way that resulted in the discolouration. There is something quite disgusting about this, but I like that. For me that repulsion references the anxiety we feel about the functions and capabilities of the autonomous body. I like that the discolouration truly was autonomous- not my doing. Whilst I facilitated it i didn’t have any control over it.

The actual process of the chewing was difficult… I really struggled with the texture. It affected me in the same way as someone scratching a blackboard. My body was covered in goosebumps. I decided rather than processing bit by bit I would force as much paper in my mouth and chew, and then once the chewing had created more room I put more paper in… I kept going even to the point of gagging. I eventually stopped, but I do think it could be interesting to push this work further to the point where I cannot continue. Instead of choosing to stop, stopping when my body tells me to. I suppose that would require me to allow myself to lose control, to surrender as I did in the workshop.

I have been making other experiments such as exploring the sensory experience of feeling a space through my tongue. I used the tongue to feel the walls. It was interesting to experience. All other senses became unimportant as I focussed only on the sensation I felt on my tongue. When I talked about this work to a few people, the idea of contamination of the outside was raised; the idea that the tongue and the mouth is a way in for bacteria and for me to use the tongue to connect with an alien external surface such as a wall, I was making myself vulnerable. I think this is interesting- to think about how we experience the external through the body. How we are fearful of the fact that the body is not a sealed unit, that it is open to the outside; that the outside can come in, and the inside can come out. I imagined the ‘toxic’ trail of saliva that I had left on the wall.

I began spitting on paper. I was curious to see if there would be a visible discolouration like there was in the chewing piece. There wasn’t much of a difference. I decided that I liked the glossy bubbly forms that comes with the spitting action. I decided to try to make it more visible so I mixed Perylene Maroon gouache into it and the result was just so striking and visceral. I love how that colour looks so much like blood. The spit was transformed for having this colour present in it. It suddenly seemed to suggest that a violence preceded the spitting.

I am enjoying the immediacy that comes from working this way. I find it exciting to see the studio fill up will these traces of actions that I am doing. The spontaneity is allowing for me to engage with the dialogue of the work, and I feel that these new realisations are helping me to understand my fascination with the autonomous body further.



I had never attended a workshop before so I was excited to see what would happen. It felt exciting to put myself into an unknowing situation with a completely open mind. I was with a group of strangers and there was something liberating about that. Nobody knew me and so I felt like I didn’t need to worry about being judged at all. I really did feel like I could open myself up to the experiences Poppy instigated. I think one of the main successes of the weekend was how the group gelled. Everyone was truly accepting and supportive of each other. The workshop ran from 9:30 on the Saturday morning and ended at 6:30 on the Sunday evening. We did everything together. There were exercises that were planned by Poppy that we did together. We spoke and shared experiences together. We ate together, slept together. Sat in silence together. We danced together, laughed together.. and I know it is a cliché, but there were even a few tears shed together. As we shared the space at the incredible house, it really did feel like we had created our own little world where anything could happen.


One of my biggest problems within my practice is my tendency to overthink everything I do. I often have to stop myself from killing an idea in my mind before it’s had a chance to live; and so the instant responses that were required at the workshop meant that I had to step out of that way of working. I had to just allow myself to be in the moment and be spontaneous. I had to let go of my ego and my fear of looking stupid!! I had to accept the unknown. I think this shared vulnerability was a huge contributing factor to the bonds that were made within the group. I realised that we are never as open to strangers and new connections in the real world like we were at Poppy’s workshop. I remember thinking that if the world was full of more performance artists, that maybe it would be a be more open, accepting and connected place! It did feel like we had created some sort of micro-utopia! Time passed at a different rate, and two days felt like much longer. I didn’t want to leave.


The workshop itself was an exploration of the autonomous body. For me this couldn’t have come at a better time. Through my attempts to explore different experiences of audience and performance during my exploration module- I feel that I had lost touch with the core of my practice; the thing that had led me to explore performance and action in the first place. In the last few works, the abject body and the corporeality of the body had been lost. So for me to reconnect to the self performing body felt like I was coming home in my practice. I felt like I was remembering what I was excited by in the first place.


It was also a safe place for me to confront the struggles I had with putting my body in my work. I have looked at so much documentation of women using their bodies in their work, and they are always the stereotypical ‘gorgeous’ slim, tight and pert body of a youthful female. My body is no longer the size 8 that it used to be. It has grown and fed babies, and all the changes that happens to the body during this process are apparent. Whilst I am able to see the miraculous process as a thing of wonder, I have felt shame / embarrassment about the traces of these events. I have not been able to be nude in my work because of the embarrassment I have felt about the way my body looks. I was great to discuss this with Poppy and the group, and through their comments and contributions I began to see my body and it’s relevance in the visual world in a new light. We spoke about the impossible expectations of the female body as a visual thing. We spoke about how be are doomed to feeling like we have failed or are not accepted through the fact that the natural effects of being a fertile and child bearing woman are not socially acceptable. It is expected that a healthy body will look a certain way- and that expected way is just not true. I began thinking about how my body and other bodies like it are so relevant and important to be seen nude, to give a true representation of what it is to be a female body. My body is incredible in that it has carried four children into the world; and through breastfeeding it has produced the perfect food for each of those children. These jobs are a big factor, (although not the only ones- I must stress that!!) of what it is to be a woman. As discussions continued I realised that this is a big thing to have present in my practice- this relationship I have with my body as a result of being within this western society. Poppy recommended I read ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf.


I am pleased to say that I was able to be nude in front of people I didn’t know for the first time since becoming a mother. I was able to perform nude also which felt incredibly liberating. I felt empowered through my facing up to my insecurities. My body felt like it was mine again. Poppy asked us to put our thoughts as a result of these discussions into a question… which we then made an action in response to. My question is one that I hope to continue to carry forward in my work in the future. ‘How can I experience my body, without adopting an external gaze?’ I think this is possibly the root of a lot of the issues I have. Instead of being present in my practice, I am thinking about the external gaze of the viewer. I need to be in my work more opposed to looking in on it.


There were so many things that happened within this workshop that reconnected me to thoughts I had forgotten, or inspired me in new ways of experiencing the body. I felt inspired by our use of materials that were supplied by Poppy. Gold leaf and ash felt particularly important to me for many reasons… and I hope to carry these forward into my practice. I hope to unpick the actions that happened and try pushing them further. I am at the beginning of the third and final semester of my MFA, and so it feels like a good point to begin pushing these further- particularly as I feel like I am beginning to reconnect to those ideas of body that got me excited in the first place. My aims moving forward are to take the exciting beginnings I discovered at the workshop and explore them though a series of spontaneous actions. The spontaneity of making immediate actions is something I discussed with André during my feedback tutorial- it is something I need to do more of. It is something I have lost touch with through my overthinking!!! I need to allow myself to fail. I need to let go of my ego. I need to surrender to the instantaneous dialogue that can happen when you respond to materials and space without pre planning an end outcome.


I wanted to publicly thank Poppy for creating a safe and inspiring environment- the closeness and connectedness we all experienced speak volumes about how you made us all feel so safe and welcome. I wanted to thank all the other truly beautiful people that I met on that weekend also- you were all incredibly inspiring to be around and each one of you taught me something different. I left that place feeling stronger and more connected to my own creative thoughts than I have done for a while!


It has taken me a while to write about the performance I did at the collaborative Ramus|Evans event… there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, as usual, just as I think i can’t possibly get any busier… I do! It is all good though- work is exciting at the moment with many opportunities presenting themselves. This means that I have so many things I would love to write about in my blog but I just don’t seem to have the time. Maybe I need to try to organise myself better… set myself a target that I will empty my thoughts into the blog more regularly so that it isn’t a huge pile of updates to work through…. Hmm… balancing / juggling seems the key to keeping an art practice in motion!


Aside from the lack of time, the other reason for my delay in posting about the event is that I wanted to allow myself time to process what happened. I think it all felt so personal that I needed time to be able to distance myself from the work in order to think about it in a productive and objective way.


The space, I feel, worked really well. Both mine and Lisa’s work seemed to occupy the space and a dialogue between the works was generated in a way that amplified the concepts we were exploring. The space also seemed to connect with these concepts… the blood red walls that were crumbling away felt reminiscent of the abject body; I felt like the space could have been a work in itself, exploring the same concepts that I explore within my work. It was a very satisfying moment before people arrived when myself and Lisa stood there and raised a glass to celebrate us managing to create a show that we felt proud of. We felt that it was an exciting show that would hopefully be memorable. We had managed to plan, organise and publicise the event by ourselves without any additional support at the same time as going though our second module assessments. Needless to say it was a tough, but satisfying journey!

With regards to my performance I do feel that I really did take a big risk! I had talked previously about how I had wanted to experience a connection with the audience. I had read how Franko B had compared one to one performance to intercourse, and I loved the notion of exchange that this implied. I had been told about the work, ‘Gilding the Lily’ by Richard Hancock and Traci Kelly (which involved the viewer having their genitals gilded in gold leaf by Hancock and then photographed with a polaroid camera. The viewer would then leave with their genitals all golden and a photographic moment of the moment.) This work made me wonder about the boundaries within one to one performance- who is the performer? Where does the performance end? Where are it’s edges /  boundaries? I don’t know why I had never considered one to one performance before, but this work got me excited! I wish I had been able to experience it myself.


The space that myself and Lisa used had a small room within it, and I decided that this would be a perfect space to explore one to one performance. I decided that I wanted to allow a freedom within the performance for me to be able to use it as research, and to evolve the performance as I learnt. There was a set framework within the performance, e.g.: how it would start, how it would end etc. but generally it was quite free. I wanted to be able to respond to the viewer. I was aware that the performance would depend on their participation and also their reaction.


I decided that I wanted to use the tension between my domestic life and artist life as a point of exploration- I thought about how it would also allow for the awkwardness / tension between performer and viewer to also be explored. I placed a series of domestic objects out in the exhibition space and invited each participant to chose one to bring into the space. I would then place the object between me and that person- the body parts I would choose to hold the object would vary depending on the person. I liked the idea of being extremely close to the person without touching. I hoped that this would create an awkwardness which would root the viewer and myself into the present moment. I asked each person to breathe with me. I would alternate the speed and as the viewer tried to keep their breath in sync with mine, this let me know that we had connected and were being active in our engagement. The breath occasionally sounded sexual- I liked that this related to Franko B’s reference to intercourse. When I decided to end the connection I would suddenly step back, meaning that the object would drop to the floor and the participant would be startled out of the strange space we had created with our connection. They then left. This was the framework. Other things happened also, such as the retelling of mundane everyday stories… it really was about responding to the moment and the person.

I found it to be incredibly draining to be so exposed and constantly responsive to the moment for the length of time that the performance went on for. The queue of people waiting to enter the room was large and it was incredibly difficult to maintain that level of intensity. I kept direct eye contact with each person that entered and as they left I felt like they took my energy with them. By the end I felt so vulnerable and so exposed… hearing conversations about me taking place outside was difficult. None of them were negative but it just felt odd to be so ultimately present within the work. There was no action to distract me from the viewer… the connection was so direct. I tried to imagine their experience. Walking into the unknown- (I had made sure that no one knew what I was planning) must have felt unnerving. Each person had expectation in their eyes.. I could see the anticipation on their faces. There was a strangeness: they seemed intrigued but hesitant also. I was interested in the fact that awkwardness makes us want to laugh, but in this situation people held their laughs in. Why do we stop ourselves from reacting honestly? Why did they hold in their laugh? I even asked some people, ‘You want to laugh, so why don’t you?’ I liked the idea that there was a silent expected way of behaving, like a form of performance etiquette. The idea that performance is serious and so we mustn’t laugh! But surely performance is an experience, and so we should experience it honestly. What would a laugh have signified? I suppose theres an honesty in a laugh.. I think maybe the challenging of socially acceptable behaviour is something I have touched upon previously.Maybe I need to push this further? That humour is not comedy- it is more about the absurdity of situations. I hadn’t thought about it, but the absurd has been an underlying factor in my practice for a while. It might be helpful to trace it back? I hadn’t really thought about it before.. but it is there.

The one to one aspect of the work seemed to fit with the duality of the show. The duality of mine and Lisa’s collaboration and also of the conversation piece that we showed- we had recorded the conversations that took place in the studio and had them playing through headphones. We placed a desk with two chairs to replicate the studio scenario that has lead to this collaboration. This work was a success in my eyes. It conveyed the relationship that has developed between myself and Lisa. It was like a version of an honest artist talk… an artist talk that is not directly presenting in a formal way, but in a ‘disclosing of our thoughts’ sort of way. A genuine ‘in conversation’ scenario. People were able to hear the conversations that fed into the development of our work- which is what the collaboration is about. I think there is something wonderful about the openness and honesty that came through in this work.

So, there is a lot to take from this experience. I feel that I have learnt a lot through this performance. I feel that myself and Lisa learnt a lot also, and I know that this is the first collaborative events of many. We hope to continue to develop the collaborative aspect of our working relationship. I think it will be interesting to see how our work develops now we are in the final phase of our MFA.

I wanted to say thank you to A-N for supporting myself and Lisa by tweeting our blogs and also by choosing us as the feature bloggers this week. We very much appreciate it!