Friday, 26 January 2018


Unable to get onto my Blog for months! - IT melt down, log in password nightmare - but I have managed to cut through the thorn bushes to find the clearing ....

Catching up on reading, and writing in response to most recent performance work. Keeping going...

Monday, 24 April 2017

re thinking seven tables

website failure so linking practice-based research recording here.
Re-visiting in studio for GIFT and Glasgow Uni PG symposium.
thinking about social abjection, repetition of 'worthless' non reproductive activity...

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Coming Home

Coming Home - the work with plates is taken to a live audience in Hull.  
March 25th 2017. Studio 11 Gallery - Humber Street, 
ReROOTed, Hull 2017 UK City of Culture. 

Hull is my 'home town'. I accumulated the plates from charity shops and stuff my mother got her friends and neighbours to donate. Somehow, the ritual draws me back. 

Found / donated crockery (50 plates in a box under the table)
My father's wall paper trestle table (probably home made in dark wood - with traces of wallpaper and paint on it)
Two found chairs
a white cloth
A found cardboard box
Candle and matches

I invite an audience member to sit with me for as long as they want. They can stay or give up their chair to someone else. A mature woman sits down. Later several other women take the seat, including a young girl of perhaps 12 years. (No men sit with me).

The table and chairs are set, with a box of crockery under the table.
I cover the table with a cloth.
I sit. The other woman sits.
I take a plate from the box, put it on the table.
I take a candle and box of matches from the floor near to me.

I light a match - light the candle - let the spent match drop to the floor.
Using the candle I 'smoke' the plate:I hold the flame close to the plate surface so that the soot of the candle gathers on the ceramic surface.
I hold the plate in my right hand, turning it between finger and thumb to try to expose the whole surface to the candle flame.
The plate becomes hot in places.
Candle wax drips onto my hand and forearm, and onto the white cloth.
Once covered in soot, I casually place the plate back onto the table.
I extinguish the candle.
I repeat the action with new plates from the box until the candle is spent.
Arounnd twentyfive plates are casually piled on the table.
I extinguish the candle for the last time, placing the stub of wax on the table.
I leave the space.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

smoke on plates

Studio research: January 10th 2017.

Smoke on plates.
Working towards coming home. (Hull March)

To begin to explore some of the physical properties of crockery, through a sense of surface.
To begin to consider the position of the spectator – an audience distanced from, or invited to the table.

To use candle smoke – prompted by the reminder of seeing candles on the dinner table at Christmas. Remembering the cruciform smoke-pattern on the ceiling of a Cypriot chapel, remembering the process of smoking egg shells for decoration, thinking of smoke as particles of dust – of ash from the fire at home.

The smell
The plate becomes hot
The wax drips on the cloth
What does the cloth do?
Sitting – a blue chair.
 The soot gathers in soft lines – the anthropomorphic language of describing the flame that licks.
The flickering, guttering of the flame.
What is the flame?
The risk of wax, flame burning the skin. The hand and fingers.
Wax fixes?
The sitting.
Who is opposite? Should spectator be opposite?
Whose table?
What does this do to the performing space?
Where is the site?
Proximity – what I see / they see
The surface
The desire to touch

Smoking the plate – a print making technique – etching plate. Could I make marks in the soot? Etch into it?
Scribe / inscribe – textual. Literal?

Artist: back to Abramovic at the table – receiving? Export on the table with wax. At not on the table.

The wax on the table- household guides on how to remove candle wax from a table cloth.
What is the cloth doing? It is making it a ritual – it is describing / defining the edges of the table – the space for the ‘event’.
The candle ritualises – birthdays, mass, votive.
Is this what I want?

What is the invitation to the spectator?
How does this upset/ uncanny/ disturb the domestic?

It brings into a collision the familiar plate – the food offering, social, giving, nurturing. But the plate is empty except for soot.
It aestheticizes a variety of plate decorations – it masks the pattern. Creates a new pattern.

It reminds me of the plates found in the sea –their pattern is augmented by the stains of trace metals in the mud and calcification of barnacles.

This is different to breaking plates.
The permanence of the action is questionable – the dishes could be washed… returned to their state – status quo.
Again, this suggests that the ‘damage’ is not permanent – a polite intervention.
It invites and rejects participation at the same time
You can sit at my table but I am in control.
The action is controlled.

It is the control that describes the domestic? A place of stability ….
But the action is of another place…
This is a matriarchal ritual.

It speaks of loss-  mourning…
Of what?
Who should be at the chair? Husband, child, mother, friend, self/ alter ego? Who is invited? Who is absent?
Is this a séance? Calling of someone – other?

Where is the other chair? At the ‘long’ end of the table – I notice that I have not placed my chair ‘square on’ to the table but at a more open angle, allowing for more room for my legs; avoiding being ‘head on’ to the (currently absent) invited spectator – or the camera as a proxy witness.

What does the invitation to the spectator do to shift the table space?

What are these dishes?
From junk shops- mis-matched.
Some are bone china

The light shines through the bone china – it luminesces.
What is the glow?

The bringing together of random possessions that no longer ‘belong’ to a place or person.
‘Lost souls.’
Re-describing home – a place at the table – on the table.
They belong and do not belong.

Soot on fingers  - the one thumb print on the plate where the object was gripped – held. A trace of the human, the female – finger print.

Soot on fingers transfers to face – touch.
Wax on hand and arms – itches, burns.
Delicacy/ intimacy of marks.

Soot on outside of a pot denotes cooking over fire – but on the inside?

Pace- slowness –not affected – how long it takes. Task as duration – as time code. Doing performance.

Sitting – watching the smoke rise as the candle is extinguished.

Repetition of r lighting match, candle, plate handing.

A pile of them. Accumulation. In cupboards, in sideboards, on shelves. Stuff – so much stuff.

Is this what ‘lamp black’ is? Soot used for polishing and blacking? The source of ink… tattooing.

Frank – Mary Edgeworth 1836. P125

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


Working Definition:
For me, the feminine uncanny draws (consciously or unconsciously) upon, and doubles back on Freud’s psychoanalytical concept of the uncanny as a way to problematize normative constructs of the female in a patriarchal space.
The feminine uncanny appears in the evocation of something unsettling and uncomfortable. It disturbs the normal and undermines notions of stability.
By replicating empowering aspects of the (un)homely the feminine uncanny objects to the repressive qualities of the home. The feminine uncanny exploits the duality of the unheimlich and heimlich to create an indirect resistance to and salutation to both. In doing so the feminine uncanny creates a feminist tension around the domestic.
The feminine uncanny is evoked in the placing together in a space the strangely familiar materials of the female (body) and the everyday object so as to reimagine their inter-relationship. Thus the feminine uncanny troubles the corporeal and psychic identity of the feminine in order to dislocate patriarchal authority. This reimagining of gendered body and everyday object suggests the development of a non-repressive language of the domestic that enables a different kind of femininity to emerge.

Monday, 5 September 2016


I am thinking about how to 'lock down' the terminology of my practice-based research to fix the use of a fem-concept.
I have used the term 'feminine uncanny' as the focus of the research question but find the feminine negative. I am reading Koloki, A. (2004) Undoing ‘homeliness’ in feminist art: The case of Feministo: Portrait of the Artist as a Housewife (1975-7) which introduces a discussion of Irigeray's use of the work 'feminine'. I am trying to distiinguish:

the subject of the research > me/ my body/ female/ gendered
the contextual lineage of the pratice research > feminist
the subject of the research > (feminine) domestic objects (neg)
and a method that disrupts the relationship between domestic object and female body which could be > feminine uncanny.

I continue to think and write ...

(photo credit Christian Kipp 2014)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

small table

Research Question: 16th August 2016
Practice Based Research

How does drawing as a live action inform the relationship between object and body?

What is trace in this research process?

Also…. Using this table – how is scale impacting on the uncanny presence?

I have found out that most of my physical gesture / position with a table in some way mimic  of  a table – placing myself in a quadruped-like position on all fours. Sometimes I do this with knees bent, but I am drawn to being in a legs straight / knees locked position (like a yoga down-dog style). I enjoy the sensation of back and leg extension. The table suggests the placing of hands and feet ‘at four corners. If my body is close to the table this also pushes my face forward to the table top – inviting me to further explore the dimensions of the table through touch of my face- my eye lash. I see the table in very close proximity, noticing the trace of dust, the scratches in the wood, the stains in the varnish. Lifting and carrying become a feature. With this small table I am able to lift the object entirely, to tuck it under my arm or into my body. I can lift it comfortably with one hand.

The image of the quadrupedal position throws up a problem for me as it brings to mind Allen Jone’s women as table in Table (1969). This along with his other fetishized images of women as furniture prompted a feminist backlash against the overt objectification of the woman which was parodied in Helen Chadwick’s performance works.
“[…] the imagery of capitalism, in which the alluring female body did not act as a sign for its owner’s own sexuality, but only as it existed for the male sexual imagination”.
Natalie Ferris in Allen Jones and the Masquerade of the Feminine

Does my physicality with these domestic objects in some way also explore a capitalist regime where the sexual and gender identity are still only constructed through and for the male consumer? I contest my own suggestion here. I think that the on all fours position for me is indicative of something more playful, more childlike. The four legs is animal-like.  Is this another uncanny mechanism to allude to a less human, less ‘animate’ form? Is the uncanniness appearing when a binary of human/ non human is broken down?

The act of drawing around the object and my body further promotes an awareness of the movement of exploring, climbing around and moving the table. I find that the line becomes a delineation of both the place of the table/ body and of the shadow of the table/ body. As such the lines are confused and do not indicate where the mark traces the position of the actual object or of the shadow of the object. As such there is a blurring of the tracing of presence and effect of presence (blocking light).  In the resulting drawing the actual presence of the object and the effect of the object are rendered with similar lines. Lines overlap lines as I have moved myself and the table. The scope of this movement has been in response to the dimensions of the paper on the floor, the presence of sunlight through the window and the field of vision of the camera. These semi-conscious restrictions are placed on the action. The restrictions promote returning movements, repeated overlapping of lines and rotation of the body and table.

This is a small table and perhaps appears at first to be miniature. But it is a ‘full size’ table in the sense that it is not a toy. It functions in the home with ‘proper’ use. This is an ‘occasional’ table.  It currently functions as a side table in my living room, placed in a corner adjacent to a small sofa, and is the place for a small lamp. It is a table I have inherited from my family and it was made by my granddad so probably dates to the 1960’s. The splayed legs and laminated wood top perhaps also suggest a 60’s style. The table has removable, screw-in legs and because of this has been convenient to travel and move house with since I first left home.

However, in the practice-based research action imagery the table does appear diminutive, and perhaps toy. The action therefore promotes a shift in thinking or understanding of the object – is it ‘real’ or is it an ‘imitation’ of a table? It draws into question the functionality of the object  and in turn I suggest the naming of the object  as ‘table’.

I arrive at a sense of tracing – that the small table is a ‘trace’ of the larger dining table. The small table, the body in a four-leg shape, the outline on the paper – these are as Derrida might suggest,  original and not original. They are both inscribed and absence of their originating form. By that I mean that they echo something previous, and are also something in themselves. I feel that this is essence of ‘disturbance’ in the research action that evokes the uncanny. The trace object/ activity draws attention to  - as trace- to the subject/ artist/ female. The play of human and object marks a ‘shift’, a shudder where comfortable reading and understanding are disturbed or displaced. I relate this disturbance back to the uncanny – uncanniness being the ‘feeling’, the experience of disturbance.