Images by Padraig Ruane & Brian Arthur
Images by Stephen White
In the tiny mirror of my eyeshadow palette, I hardly recognise who I am anymore. Red lipstick bleeding into brown over my cheekbones and creeping upwards and across my forehead, hair strewn asunder. I survey the scene; remnants of chocolate are embedded into the carpet in streaks like the imprints of a wild animal roaming about the space, the chair I had been sitting on is not where I expected it to be and the only other person in the room, the photographer, is staring at me with wide eyed wonder.
I should explain how I came to find myself in the above scene. It’s late-August, the setting is a former convent in Dublin and I’m there because I’m making a performance-to-camera piece for my final Fine Art Master’s project. It’s an autotheoretical research-led performance art project that is based on explorations of my embodied experience, identity and attachments to signifiers in the form of sculptural fragile stiletto shoes.
Titled The Sweets Of Sin (a reference to a salacious novel within Joyce’s Ulysses), I begin the performance sitting in a chair wearing a blue sequin gown and holding a pair of stiletto shoes made from chocolate. The room has a stained-glass window, which I cannot see because my back is turned to it, but I know it’s there; a reminder that this used to be a place of quiet and piousness. Time expands as I breathe deeply to settle into the performance. As I put my feet on the chocolate shoes, they become fractured and abstracted. I slowly melt into them and they into me as I slide off the chair and pour myself onto the floor making slow dance-based movements. Running what was a stiletto point across my lips, I think about the wonder and expectation I felt as I played with lipstick as a small child, and then the shame I embodied as a teenager enrolled at a convent school in Drogheda, as my body bloomed into sought-after womanhood; I recall the feeling of knowing that I was inherently sinful, purely for existing in this body.
Although I know that I am only being watched by a photographer for this performance-to-camera piece, I imagine that I am being watched by the nuns who used to occupy this space. Biting, licking and smearing the melting shoes across my softly parted wet mouth, my body feels heavy on the floor as I writhe and rise. Completely melted, I don’t know how long I am in this flow state and at times I am not even aware of what I am doing. Yet I know when it is finished, a sense of completion free from shame.
Images by Padraig Ruane
Images by Laura O’Loughlin
Images by Karen Enokibara
Images by Laura O’Loughlin
Images by Amanda Dunsmore
This durational performance was made as part of a three day performance workshop with Belfast-based Performance Art organization BBeyond, exploring the concepts of Presence, Subject and Object.
Prompted to use an object to make an improvised performance, I chose a pair of gold 8-inch stilettos.
In writing about Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Tiukało makes the claim that: ‘For the author of The Second Sex an authentic human being is an independent individual expressing both the subjective and objective elements of his/her body’ (2016, p. 82).
Inspired by the writings of De Beauvoir, I used this performance to explore the relationship between my body and my stilettos, as objects and subjects in order to find new ways of moving through space and time.
This performance art project is the culmination of my Masters research at Limerick School of Art & Design. It is an autotheoretical research-led exploration of embodied experience and identity, symbolized by sculptural fragile and fracturing stiletto shoes.
Underpinned by the Deleuzian concept of ‘becoming-woman’ as a conceptual framework, this practice seeks to create not only a sense of wonder at what a body can do but to explore the collective consciousness of signifiers, employing feminist epistemology that Jones says ‘…must acknowledge not only the temporality and processual nature of identifying but also the intersectional quality of how and what we identify in ourselves and others’ (2012, p. 177).
In this theme, I have created a series of sculptural artefacts and experimental enquiries of live performance, with resulting performative works in moving image and lens based media employing Fournier’s definition of autotheory as a method for creating artworks that ‘…integrate the personal and the conceptual, the theoretical and the autobiographical, the creative and the critical, in ways attuned to interdisciplinary, feminist histories’ (2021, p. 18).
Exhibited as part of ‘Anemoia’, an exhibition of works in progress by the MA Fine Art students at Limerick School Of Art & Design, in the Church Gallery, the ‘Untitled’ performative moving image piece approximately 7 minutes in duration along with the resulting broken plaster stilettos.
‘Untitled’: This is a performative work using sculpture and moving image with pole dance as a movement methodology, exploring the inevitable deterioration and breakdown of stiletto heels created from plaster.
Using these stiletto heels as tools and art objects, I explore how this destruction may ‘…give rise to opportunities for creative behaviour’ as the process of dancing in shoes which are designed to break forces me to reassess my prior embodied knowledge and skill in pole dancing (Engman, 2018, n.p.).