My journey to writing my dissertation started with my fascination with performance art. Many of the work within performance art are based around the body and the ways it can be manipulated physically, but also mentally, whether that is in the mind of the artist or the viewer. My final piece within my first year of studying at Cardiff Met looked at the line between our admiration and our repulsion towards our skin. I did this by videoing the ‘removal’ of my own skin, accompanied by the loud repulsive sound of the latex I was removing within the video. In my second year I looked at making other people vulnerable by threatening their bodies’ safety within a space, using elastic bands and water. Now in my third year I am looking at what makes me vulnerable in terms of isolation though which you could say I become almost an abject object.
I started off with looking at Julia Kristeva’s book Powers of Horror as everything that I had found that was previously written on abjection referenced her and the beginning ideas of this process. The obtaining of Barbra Creed’s book A Monstrous Feminine allowed me to further research and back up many of the ideas I already had in terms of men fearing women for their natural pro creating powers and the likening of the uterus to the devil as this has come up in many readings and talks on classic paintings that I have partaken in throughout my education. Learning more about how woman’s biology was seen, and to some extent still is, as threatening to men’s power has inspired me to carry on my own art practice in further years within the realms of this subject.
The use of sexualisation within my dissertation was a natural step from my research into the abject body as often they are both linked or one can be used to describe the other.
During my research into why men sexualise and supress women I came across Natasha Walter’s book Living Dolls – The Return of Sexism which has changed my views on current society to the point where I thought about changing the subject and rewriting my dissertation to look more into the societal changes women have faced and why circumstances have ended up like this. In her book she interviews many young girls with in different aspects of the sex trade from prostitution to pole dancing. Before this book I was well on the feminist side (without calling myself a feminist) of sexual empowerment being a positive thing for women and would often think along the lines of I can dress and do whatever I want because it’s my liberation and empowerment. But now looking back I can see how woman are still getting into the exact situations they were previously but rather then blaming men for the violence and objectification they have no one to blame but themselves and their feminist empowerment fed to them by other women.
I was stuck on how to further this dissertation when it was suggested to me that I look at the combined sexualised and abject in the form of breasts. I have always had a fascination with the suppression of woman’s breasts and the controversy around women breastfeeding in public and the role of clothing in rape culture. From this I am an avid partaker and follower of the Free the Nipple Campaign that is fighting for breast and nipple equality throughout society, culture and the Internet. Even though finding breasts sexually attractive myself I have always seen this as my own problem and not that of the women that has produced the breasts. So the fascination on why this has become such a big statement in the modern world is fascinating to me and being given the opportunity within my own education to read more into this has been a pleasure.
I was already planning on using the argument about breast feeding in public within my sexualisation section but the use of the third chapter meant that I was able to explore other areas of the female sexualisation, such as the history of sexualisation within artwork.
The use of the artists in this dissertation excluding the ones of painting and sculpture are all personal favourites of mine and therefore inspired me to explain and demonstrate their strong reactions and links to the themes in my dissertation. From all the in-depth research into these artists I have enthused myself into pushing my own studio practice, as the reactions and lasting feelings these works have on the audiences. I would love to try and recreate these types of cultural reactions throughout my own degree work.
I always struggle with the writing aspect of my degree due to being severely dyslexic. The actual process of reading all the research material is the first hurdle I came to and you could say partially fell at, as to my difficulties I wasn’t able to read the books in the most in-depth way and therefore have probably missed out on lots of fine grade changing details. When attempting to get help from the university with the structure, layout, and overall correctness of my dissertation, I was left with confusion as all the help I was given was only on my introduction that I was already satisfied with at the beginning of the session. I think to get over these problems I will need to practice my essay structures, basic English writing skills and my reading skills to be within hope of completing my doctoral thesis within the next 10 or so years.
But when I look back on my journey through school to the final year of my degree, I have nothing but respect and pride for myself. From being diagnosed with dyslexia at the end of junior school I began to properly learn to read and write in my first two years of secondary school and from there I have never felt like I have had the confidence to read a section of text out loud, let alone creating a high standard piece of academic writing.