Master of Arts Thesis
FRAGILE Contains Feelings Public Intimacies: The Stressed Body in Contemporary Performance Art an abstract. Performance art has always been contingent on its ability to hold space for marginalized people to embody personal stories and experiences. Holding space is a practice of awareness, listening past ones own defenses and deflections, and validation. The medium of performance art, has a deep embodied history as it infiltrates a ramifying variety of spaces. LGBTQAI+ and BDSM communities have long turned to performance art to testify to and transform their experience, as have many activists in Feminist, Civil Rights and other social justice movements. This project holds space for contemporary performance artists Doreen Garner, Cassils and Jennifer Locke. These intersectional identities are important to consider, and especially here and now foregrounding as they do issues of race, gender and sexuality; they relate to generational traumas. Each of these three artists build from the foundation of performance while responding to social or personal injustices steeped in their own histories and abiding existence. This work resists while at once it is freighted by the exertions and exactions of the current sociopolitical climate, a debased time and place in which people wear shirts that say fuck your feelings and hats that read Make America Great Again. We as a country seem to be submitting for now to more self serving systems and depictions of being. This project seeks to enact the concept of holding space and reinstates it as an alternative to conservative and unsympathetic systems. Hyper-binarical categorizations and institutional frameworks empower the alienation and erasure of marginalized bodies under stress. Performing identities refuse compulsory binarity and resist heteronormative gate-keeping narratives that would otherize or victimize them. Each artist I address queers their relationships to power, control and consent within their practice and on their own terms. In a world of social norms and institutional forms that treat their identities and experiences as problems to be solved, this project argues it is necessary for these artists to imagine, demand, and create spaces in which such roles, expectations, and conventions are reversed or rejected altogether.