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Rapture – “Feminine” Aesthetics and the Sublime

Rapture begins a series of projects that focuses on making feminist, multi-disciplinary practice from the perspective of design, content and management. Rachel Candler, Rachel Nicholson and Rebecca Pollock are currently interested in what it may mean to generate a piece of work from a feminist viewpoint, how their various “feminisms” affect and impact upon the how, why and what of making performance.

 

An Argument?

The researchers are making an argument for “feminine” performance to move backwards and forward “through” a romantic notion of the sublime in order to embrace an ecstatic aesthetic of overwhelming sensibilities, whilst still being free to use language to present feminist dialectics. If we take Cixous’ definition of the “feminine” as being in opposition to phallocentric structure; non-linear, even chaotic, then we can certainly identify this aesthetic throughout artistic time and present in the work of both genders (Turner’s late “light paintings” come to mind). Women are represented pictorially and linguistically throughout the Romantic Movement and a few even included as initiators (Rossetti. C, Shelley. M). Femininity, despite still often being the “object”, has some inherent virtue within Romanticism that moves beyond the mere pedestal and into a grand force of overwhelming poetry. In response to Cixous then, this grandiose force can lend itself to the opposition of that which is readily understood, structured and binary. It may well still be oppressive but it is a sensory oppression, an innate stirring that allows for an individual encounter rather than conformity. In the exploration of this through the female collective, the feminine “icon” becomes both the object and the subject and thus embraces the overwhelming chaos of the feminine sublime. Alluding to a feminist dictum of words alone “not being enough”, into this we bring language – not deconstructed necessarily but potentially oppressive, insular text; oppression being an ongoing and enduring part of Feminist Dialectics.

Rapture, an intermedial lighting performance installation was generated over a few short hours during Symposium 2014. The direction of the piece came from an interest in and musings on the sublime as a way of exploring a feminine aesthetic. Alongside the performance, Rebecca Pollock also hosted a feminist discussion panel with feminist and queer performance makers, Lazlo Pearlman, Jemma McDonnell, Dr. Pamela Karantonis and Dzifa Benson. The discussion centered itself around the development of the newly labeled “fourth wave feminism” and how current feminist dialectics are (if at all), evolving feminist performance models.

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