Hauntings and herstories: Feminist Live Art in 1980's and 1990's Ireland

Lead Research Organisation: Roehampton University
Department Name: Drama, Theatre and Performance


Knowledge of past conditions and experience exists in contemporary life not only in the form of documents and ephemera but in embodied memory and invisible cultures. For those who have been oppressed, inherited stories, feelings, and traumas are often the only form their history takes. In Ireland, oppression of women inflicted by colonial violence and replaced by a nationalistic and patriarchal Church and State bred a culture of silence and shame around women's bodies, their experiences and knowledge. Today, the affects of this oppression lurks in embodied memory, generated in affective, intergenerational encounter. This partial knowledge haunts the gaps in official archives and 'gives notice that something is missing' (Gordon, 1997: 15). Feminist Live Art practices in Ireland have been a platform for both reminding and remembering the traumatic experiences endured by women, and challenging a State that wants to ignore and forget (Healy and Walsh 2011).

My PhD project will focus on the under-represented practices of Irish feminist live artists working in the 1980's, when Live Art began to emerge as a form in Ireland, up to the end of the century. Specifically, I will focus on artists Pauline Cummins, Mary Duffy and Alanna O'Kelly.I aim to uncover the practices of Cummins, Duffy and O' Kelly as unique repositories of Irish herstories and to rethink their performances as affective experiences that propagate an embodied feminist archive and lead us to notice feminist hauntings. I aim to interrogate the possibility of affective processes in producing alternative modes of Live Art documentation. Further, I will take up Rebecca Schneider's proposal 'to think performance as a medium in which disappearance negotiates, perhaps becomes, materiality' (2014: 106) to question what is performance and what is documentation in this context. The intended outcome of this project is a written thesis, alongside a performance-lecture and a series of feminist workshops/sharing circles which I will produce in the UK (with LADA) and in Ireland.


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