Having the opportunity to sit down and discuss my work with André outside of assessment time was hugely beneficial in realising what I have ahead of me with regards to developing current work. I found it useful to seek advice from someone who has gained so much experience in the field of performance. I am currently in the process of planning a durational performance exploring body hair. I intend on challenging the prescribed template in place for a feminine body through the plucking of my body hair.
We discussed the importance for the action of plucking opposed to shaving or waxing. I spoke about how I felt that shaving my legs etc would seem so normal to the viewer, and so there would seem to be no reason for the viewer to engage with the action; when what you are viewing is so completely normal / predictable you tend to lose the inquisitive way of engaging with what you are seeing. You switch off because it is predictable. By plucking the hairs one by one it would draw attention to each hair. The drawn out action may seem incredibly monotonous and impossible to finish. This impossibility of the task is something I want to highlight- the impossibility to stay in control of our body, the impossibility to stay one step ahead. No matter how much we try to manipulate the body, despite all the interventions we put in place we will always be chasing it’s actions. It will always be one step ahead. And one day, eventually, we will lose control of it entirely.
The durational aspect of the plucking is also an opportunity to test my own boundaries. To test the boundaries of focus, attention. To alter the experience of time. Also, I am hoping that the action of plucking- which is often associated with pain, will trigger mirror neutrons in the viewer and that my interest in embodied experience may be brought into the work.
When discussing my proposed action with André he challenged the fact that by only plucking legs, armpits and pubic hair I am not going as far as my initial enquiry demands. André suggests that the eyebrows, in their entirety, should also be plucked. If I am to challenge the imposed notions of beauty by plucking my hair then where does the boundary lie and should there even be a boundary. On reflection I think i agree with him, even though my immediate reaction is a case of, ‘no, not my eyebrows!!!!!’.
Why the instant horror in plucking all of my eyebrow hairs? Well, there is no hiding from it. The remains of my action will be visible for all to see for a significant amount of time- thats if they grow back at all! But, my horror in this action speaks volumes in the importance of this facial feature in fitting in and not being ugly! Eyebrows are such an important feature to the face; not only because of their expressive qualities but because they are associated with beauty. Without them, faces look quite alien-like. The face is such an important feature when it comes to these issues- so should I not be using it? How can I be truly challenging notions of ‘acceptable femininity’ if it is in relation to certain rules or boundaries? I couldn’t help but feel very aware of what it would be like to have no eyebrows at all outside of my art practise, in my life away from the studio. In the school playground when I wait for my children, in the supermarket, just in my general life…. I can’t help but feel that (despite my discomfort in the situation) it would be in these places where the art would truly come alive, where standards of femininity would be truly tested. Maybe I need to just be brave and take the step. It could be so powerful, and I know that when I am uncomfortable I am truly testing my boundaries. It seems like such a trivial thing- to be without eyebrows- but I can’t help but feel that it would be powerful. And that the humour of the action may be a thing that bridges the gap despite the oddness! I think this is something that I may explore separate to the current project that I am working on. I feel that I need to give consideration to a lot of factors- and I don’t want to rush. I am (hopefully) performing on the 25th February and I don’t feel that leaves enough time to plan for all of the factors that need to be prepared, e.g. portrait photographs etc.
I realise after talking to André that there is much work to be done with regards to the staging of my performance. Lighting, cameras, photography…. I realise that I have to let go and invite people in to help with documentation. This is a great concern for me as I am worried that the imagery won’t be what I want. I realise that a key point in this is communication. I need to make sure that I communicate clearly my expectations to those who help. I have arranged a meeting with Neil Pedder who is very experienced in documenting time based work- hopefully he will be able to share his knowledge and set up staging that will be much more effective than my previous attempts. It is important that people feel that they can enter the space, and cameras have put people off in my previous attempt at performance. I am hoping that clever lighting will enable the cameras to be discreet.