The Origin of the World: Analysis, Representation and Performance

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Sarah WILSON , School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom
Syd KROCHMALNY , University of Buenos Aires, Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina
This paper focuses on an artistic experiment or performance, ‘The Origin of the World’, in which over a two year period, 50 male artists were provided with charcoal, paper and instructions quickly to draw a vagina (only) with no human or other model. 20 of the drawings were later re-presented in a video in which the drawings slowly morph together and apart consecutively to music. Later, the drawings and video were exhibited in a university space. This paper explores this process and these data from a methodological perspective, discussing their potential as both representation and performance.  First, the drawings were analysed interpretatively in relation to Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and feminist critiques of the same. This analysis highlighted the notable lack of consensus in the shapes produced, the extent to which the artists stuck to or deviated from the instructions given, and the clues they provided as to the artists’ responses to the exercise (anxiety? disgust? humour?). This work raised further questions as to the nature of the data analysed and the potential contribution to such analysis of interviews exploring the artists’ perspectives on the exercise, its distance from their habitual artistic practice and perhaps their own gender/ sexual identities. However these data are also performative (Law 2009) in that they enact multiplicities, thereby interrogating categorisations and, in more general terms, illustrate the potential of such methods and data to provide an opening to the uncertain and less defined. Further the video itself constitutes an interpretation and interrogation of the drawings, as well as an aesthetic argument as to their significance, one in which conventional, commercial representations of female bodies become strange. The later presentation of the artefacts produced (drawings, video) in a university exhibition produced a further space in which to open dialogue, debate and alternative understandings.