project inception

The interdisciplinary grant title, Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, called to mind the fact (or at least based on my unlimbered capacity and imaginings) that a female can only see herself, her physical sexual specificity, with some form of reflecting device. Gender understandings seem to be culturally constitutive and core to our identities, more so than we would like to believe possible. This interdisciplinary performative reading project collaboratively explores the female’s first encounter with her own femininity. It is our intent to work fluidly between physical space (visual art/installation), textual/literary space (flash creative nonfiction/confessional poetry), and liminal space (theatrical direction, contemplative somatic movement, aural exploration/interpretation) and body.

Perhaps you are wondering what exactly what the heck we mean by performative reading. We have not yet read the pieces you will write, but it is from these that we will actually derive both the performative elements and the nature of the art installation. Yet we tentatively envision something like the following:

Imagine a cluster of women scattered in pairings, back-to-back, seated or standing, on oversized raw home furnishings built from domestic thresholds (doors and windows and frames) set outdoors in the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts’ new courtyard. It is evening and the sun has just set, silhouetting the four to seven pairs of distorted handcrafted chairs. 

A light rises on one pairing—a seated woman reading, and at her back, a second seated human-artifact is performing with a single slow repetitive contemplative body movement. The human-artifact is functioning intertextually with her objectness and gesture melding at a conceptual juncture between body and text; firsts and femininity; lived and distorted memories. The light dims as the reading and gesture of the pair begins again softly. 

A secondary pairing of reader and human-artifact becomes the attentional focus as the light intensifies upon them. The second reading and performative gesture are enacted. This continues through a series of four to seven texts. Each pairing and gesture will be unique to its specific text. 

At the end, with all lights dimmed, the readers exit their seating/standing positions. Still reading as they walk, they navigate to empty seats amidst the audience. The readers slowly lower their heads and voices in unison until they can no longer be heard but their lips remain moving with their text. Simultaneously, the human-gestural-artifacts diminish their gestures and bow their heads as they still. The lights remain dimmed for a few moments. 


The lights come up only slightly to cue the end. Readers and human gestural artifacts remain seated, heads bowed as the floor is opened for Q and A.

Initial grant project proposal below in ISSUU format.

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