Loose Ends

Last week, as part of my No Pain No Gain Workshop with students at Southampton Solent University, I did a drawing to represent my identity. It was about my often choosing the most challenging and complicated path, but having a new desire to find easier ways that hopefully will be just as rewarding. Since I left that drawing behind I made a new one this morning where I gather together all the loos-ends of the past and look toward the various routes I have before me. 

I will pass on the Protagonist's duties to Bob and Roberta Smith imminently. With this in mind I decided to take a good look over my posts from the past year. I found that there were some rough edges - from allusions to future posts that went unwritten to promises of performance documentation that I still haven't got around to editing, much less uploading. This post is intended both to sum up and tie up those loose ends. I'm not dwelling on the negative, but rather hoping to find a way, step-by-step to complete what I originally set out to do.

1) The Film Project
Right from the word go I stated I was working on a series of performances, a web-TV show and a film project to be screened alongside films by other artists. We have seen performances come to fruition and some attempts at my web-TV show, but what of the film? There were some posts in April of last year when I started shooting, but since then total silence. The fact is, due to some poor planning and technical difficulties I can't bring myself to watch the footage. I'm hoping that my passion for the project will return and I'll make something of it. Perhaps it's the starting point of another episode of The O Show or maybe all I need to do is schedule a re-shoot. Hopefully that film will take shape and the screening alongside other artist's films will also be realised in due course. Most importantly for now, I learned a hard lesson from what happened; apparently it's an old adage: "if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail". 

2) Behind the scenes of The Do It All Dating Game - Part 1
Now there is an example of something that was meticulously planned and as such was well executed. That said, there is some unfinished business to do with The Do It All Dating Game. Firstly, I never completed editing the video documentation. Secondly, the blog post is called 'Part 1' because I had intended to write a 'Part II'. (Fittingly and perhaps presciently, I talk about the seeming endlessness of the artistic process in that 'Part 1' blog post.) Third and last, and perhaps most regrettable of all, I never did find out about how the winners' dates went. I had intended to do a follow-up piece on stickam to get the back story. I don't think Eirini ever went on her date. :( Hopefully the piece will be recommissioned and I'll get the chance to do it right, all the way to the end!

Just to get it out of my system... here is the gist of 'Behind The Scenes of The Do It All Dating Game - Part II' blog post:  Hours before the show began, when I was meeting many of the contestants for the first time, I found out that they were quite intimidated at the thought of performing for an audience. This was brought home to me when we were asked by a reporter from BBC Radio to do a quick rehearsal for her, so she could record some sound bites. When the ladies got on their mini-trampolines, it became painfully obvious that they didn't know what they were doing; they didn't know how to get or keep the audience's attention. Even though the story never aired on BBC Radio Nottingham, I'm really glad that reporter was there because I might not have known this was a problem that had to be overcome. I took all the participants back stage and told them I had some fool-proof exercises that would help them overcome their shyness, fear of audiences, etc. I said this of course not knowing whether or not the exercises would in fact have the desired effect. Well, perhaps the sheer power of suggestion made it happen. I made them do some very basic theatrical mirroring games. This enabled them to loosen up and they went about helping each other come up with funny lines to deliver during the show, since the questions were planned in advance. I think they may have got a bit too loosened up; one newly liberated performer took to chucking food at the audience. Anyway, it was a great experience for me to find out that I had the ability to turn ordinary shy people into brazen exhibitionists. Voila!

3) 5 Success Stories
In this post I actually say the words "watch this space". You can keep watching, but you won't see documentation of the collaborative performance piece I did with students from Scarborough here. Shame. I did get sent a DVD of the performance, it's somewhere in my studio and I hope I can find it because I really am proud of what we made. Hopefully it will make its way onto my own website (www.orianafox.com) in the soon to be revealed, brand-spanking new 'Research' section.

4) Face to Face - conclusion
I want(ed) to write a conclusion to my series of posts based on my interview with Judy Chicago about her book Frida Kahlo Face to Face. At least I had the good sense not to say 'to be continued' at the end of the fourth excerpt. Part of the reason I never wrote part 5 was because I knew that final post would compare my work to Chicago's and Kahlo's and question whether it would be worthwhile for me to make work like theirs today (and if it would be taken seriously). In other words, it would entail being critical of these women who I admire and their artistic strategies in a way that I didn't feel comfortable doing. But isn't that what friends are for? And isn't it good that my approach to art making is different/unique and doesn't follow too closely in my heroines' footsteps. This post would also have had to confront the fact that even when I try to convey my emotions and personal experiences in my work, what comes out often seems cliche.

. . . 

Phew, I feel much better already. It seems like all the things I wanted to do but haven't yet done seem doable. Now I can relax and write that musical composed of bodily noises or go bake that cake the size of a bed! 

No Gallery Necessary

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Roberta's Body Language Chart, 1978 

 A couple of weeks ago I had to give a presentation (a 3000 word paper) outlining my PhD research. I described as best I could the connections I've been making between feminist performance art and self-help, explaining how self-disclosure, prevalent in live art and therapeutic contexts, is the focus of my analysis as a tactic of belonging and possibly empowerment. Simon O'Sullivan pointed out that the activities of the artists I am looking at (as well as my own work) are representations, so it's one step removed from life and therefore to look to these activities as 'technologies of the self' or potential ethical models is a bit odd (not necessarily impossible, but strange and intriguing). I'm not quoting him verbatim, but the gist of what he was saying, or rather asking, was how am I to deal with these different registers of life and representation? It's an interesting point and one I haven't considered in detail yet. That said, his words reminded me of a comment made by the artist Lynn Hersmann Leeson at the screening of her film Women Art Revolution at Whitechapel gallery in December. Someone asked her why performance art was a medium taken up by so many women artists during second-wave feminism's heyday, to which she responded that it's a medium that did not require institutional support; you could do it in your daily life - no gallery necessary. So as a woman who was struggling to find a space to make art (or get recognition as an artist), it was a solution. From 1973-9 Leeson lived as her alter-ego Roberta Breitmore, who got a driver's license and even went to see a psychotherapist. Breitmore is Leeson's lived representation of selfhood, and the activity of being someone else is a way of acting in the world (as an artist and a person) that deserves consideration. Today women's representation in the art world has not reached total parity with men, but we're a lot better off now (as Leeson's more recent institutional successes make evident). The idea that a woman can be an artist (or any other profession, for that matter) is not an issue. So the question is, what remains worthwhile about performance art as a feminist or ethical practice?

Symposium Perfection

It seems like it's one symposium after another these days. First there was the trashing symposia that made me feel appropriately degraded, then there was the panel on the feminist flirt which got me a little overexcited, followed shortly thereafter by the symposium on feminist art and the 80s which left me in tears. Hopefully this next one at Whitechapel will be just right, in fact it looks like they may have perfected it! (ba dum ching) The photographer Jo Longhurst has organised a 2-day symposium on perfection from 3-4 Feb 2012 and decided to show one of my videos during it. Strange that my work should be included since I'm much more into unperfectionism and embracing failare. In the words of psychologist Albert Ellis, "excessive striving to be perfect will invariably lead to disillusionment, heartache and self-hatred." In fact, in one of his most early books, endearingly titled How to Live with a Neurotic (1957), he included perfectionism among the main irrational ideas leading to disturbance. So wait, I'd better bring along my U.S.A. (unconditional self acceptance, that is) to the Whitechapel.

Whitechapel Gallery
On Perfection

Thursday 2 February, 9.45am–5.45pm & Friday 3 February, 9.45am–4.30pm

International artists and writers discuss how concepts of perfection shape our personal identities and social and political systems. Featuring new research, screenings, artist conversations and performance, the programme includes Julian Rosefeldt on his video installation The Perfectionist and Ray Müller, director of The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, on his experience of working with Hitler’s infamous propagandist - the ultimate perfectionist. 

One thing at a time or all at once?

I'm still no expert at project management using the gantt chart method. I had the sinking feeling I hadn't accomplished all that much from my last attempt at this kind of self-organisation, but I was surprised to find that the contents of my last chart were for the most part all dealt with in one way or another (except for the backload of video editing of performance documentation, which has made its way onto this chart, hopefully not in vain!). Doing this has made me feel as if I have no time, rather than making me feel calm and collected. Not sure if I'm doing this right...

Women Artists, Feminism in the 80s and Now

Women Artists, Feminism in the 80s and Now Symposium

Saturday 3 December, Goldsmiths University, Ben Pimlott Building, 10am-5pm

Free, no refreshment provided

For more information contact Althea Greenan: a.greenan@gold.ac.uk

Access:  see campus map and for additional info:  http://www.gold.ac.uk/find-us/


The symposium is collaboration between The Women’s Art Library and BAG Women (Brixton Art Gallery women artists group) to coincide with Brixton Calling! exhibition at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning (28 October – 21 December 2012). 


Women Artists, Feminism in the 80s and Now is a cross generational symposium that examines the legacy of UK 80s women artists and feminists in the light of current feminist practice and thinking.


The symposium aims to recall 80s Feminist practice, thinking, debates and campaigns and discuss their relevance today for a new generation of women artists and feminists.


The symposium is part of a series of events, held during Brixton Calling!  including a 3 day 80s Women Lens Based Media Event  (10-12 November 2011, Brixton Village).  For more information contact: e-mail: info@198.org.uk


Brixton Calling! (2011) is a collaborative and participatory project, connecting contemporary Brixton to its past through the history of 1980s Brixton Art Gallery & Artists Collective and their archives. Based at the Brixton Art Gallery, 2 women artists groups: Women's Work and Black Women In View, initiated and curated ambitious and powerful exhibitions and led courses, conferences and public events; contributing to local and international political campaigns and debates around Feminist art and aesthetics, sexuality, race and gender.


For Brixton Calling! exhibition, artists Françoise Dupré and Rita Keegan have created an Archives Installation, celebrating the contribution Women Artists and Feminism made to the Brixton Art Gallery.  For the project, Dupré and Keegan have reactivated Brixton Art Gallery's network of women artists to form Brixton Calling!  BAG Women.



Symposium Question and Themes


Debates about 80s feminist art often raise contradictory but relevant questions: 80s feminist art practice has been forgotten, parodied, emptied out of content, re-enacted, has produced paralyzing reverence and ongoing tension between past and present generations.


The symposium’s running question is:


Drawing from 80s Feminist aesthetics, ethics and practice, how can we today develop a critical and relevant feminist art practice?


It will be addressed by ‘young’ and ‘old’ feminists through panel and group discussions and a concluding plenary session.


Two interconnected themes have been identified: 

·       Body Politics (performativity, identity formation, race, sexuality)

·       Public sphere (community engagement, education, places)


Symposium Format


Symposium’s Mistress of Ceremony: Rita Keegan, Brixton Calling! co curator


10am: Registration


10.15: Welcoming introduction by Rita Keegan


10.30am-10.45am: Introduction by Althea Greenan, Women’s Art Library curator


10.45-11.15am Introduo Rebecca Snow, Brixton Calling! volunteer and Françoise Dupré, Brixton Calling!

                         project co-manager/curator  


11.15am-12.45pm: Panel discussion


11.15am-12.15pm: Panel presentations (15 minutes each)


Artists Rosy Martin, Roxane Permar, Shanti Thomas, reflect individually upon 80s feminist engagement with Body Politics and the Public Sphere.


Catherine Grant addresses the tension and problematic about re-visiting 80s feminist art practice in the light of today feminism.


12.15pm-12.45pm: Panel discussion, moving debate forward for the afternoon sessions


12.45pm-1.30 Lunch

1.30pm-2.15pm: 3 group discussions responding to morning panel discussions to be lead by a younger generation of feminists including: Oriana Fox, Diana Georgiou, Rachael House, Rebecca Snow + more

Topics for the 3 groups: Body Politics, Education and third one to be identified on the day in response to the morning discussion


2.15-2.30: Break


2.30pm- 3.30pm: Group reports and panel discussion


3.30pm-3.45pm: Break


3.45-4.15pm: Bringing together  by Rebecca Fortnum


4.15-5pm: audience response


5pm: end of symposium

The Feminist and The Flirt

As part of the Underwire Festival at the Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey tomorrow from 12-1.30pm, I'll be speaking in a panel entitled... 

The Feminist and the Flirt: Performance Video Art

Here's some more info:

Does being a woman on both sides of the camera compromise or strengthen the feminist agenda in your work? Are you the subject, object, or the collaborating voyeur? How can you avoid re-enforcing those representations that you intend to subvert? Join a panel of artists, curators and writers to explore new and old challenges facing contemporary female performance video artists.

Speaker biographies

Harriet Fleuriot (chair)
Harriet is a filmmaker and performance artist with a penchant for arts-based comedy. She graduated from the BA Film Production at the Arts Institute Bournemouth in 2005 and the following year wrote, directed and performed the award-winning UKFC-funded Digital Short “A Short Collection of Hilary Flamingo’s Dream Vocations”. Since then, her (often collaborative) work has been shown in the UK and internationally at film festivals, galleries, art clubs, old car show rooms, old kebab shops and eastend drinking holes.

Gil Leung 
Gil Leung is a writer and curator based in London. She is Distribution Manager at LUX, London and Editor of VERSUCH journal. She previously worked as Assistant Curator for Tate Film producing projects like Expanded Cinema, the Baldesssari Frieze Oil Tank Commisssions and the Tate Live programme. Gil writes for Afterall and various independent publications.
Oriana Fox
Oriana Fox is an artist who uses mainly performance and video to reference and critique both the representation of women in contemporary media and the iconic feminist artists of the 1970s. She graduated from Washington University in 2000 and Goldsmiths College in 2003. Recent exhibitions include: ‘Women Should Be In Charge’ at the ICA, London, ‘The Do It All Dating Game’ at Nottingham Contemporary, and ‘Happiness Happenings’ with The Hayward Huddle, Royal Festival Hall, London. Fox is currently pursuing a practice-based PhD in the Visual Cultures department at Goldsmiths.

Mo Throp
Dr Mo Throp is an Associate Researcher with the CCW Graduate School at Chelsea; she is a practising artist, curator and writer. She was BA Fine Art Course Director at Chelsea until 2011 and was previously critical theory tutor on the MA Fine Art at Goldsmiths. Mo studied sculpture at St Martin’s College of art followed by an MA and PhD at Chelsea. With Dr Maria Walsh, Mo is co-convenor of the Subjectivity & Feminisms Research group at Chelsea. Mo is an AHRC Peer Review College panel member.

Katie O’Brien
Katie Bridget O’Brien has a fine art BA specialising in performance and video. She is now a solo artist, performer, writer and collaborator. Her recent projects include co-founding The Muffia (satirical feminist provocateurs) and working as one half of the comedy duo The Bareback Banshees. Katie has been the Arts Editor for UK Feminista’s blog and volunteered for the charity Women in Prison.


MoSCoW Prioritisation Technique

Once again I'm applying business project management tools to guide my work as an artist. This time I'm using what's known as the MoSCoW method which is helping me to prioritise topics I'm writing about in the first chapter of my PhD. Sitting down at the screen my mind was all in a muddle. I started by doing mind maps but they got a bit overwhelming, quite like my mind. The MoSCow method on the other hand seems more promising. I have written the ideas I believe I will need to address in my chapter on a bunch of index cards. Then I categorised them as follows: 
  • the cards under the letter 'M' must be done in order for the chapter to be a success
  • the cards under the letter 'S' should be done, these are high priority but can be satisfied in other ways if absolutely necessary
  • the cards under the letter 'C' could be done because it's desirable but not necessary
  • the cards under the letter 'W' are things I would like to address, but perhaps it's better to do that at a latter date or in another chapter.  

Give & Take @ Trash Salon

Here are some pictures documenting my raffle at the Trash Salon in October where we raffled away people's trashed ideas for performance pieces. We each have a year to complete the idea that we won. 

Presented by Performance Matters, a collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of LondonUniversity of Roehampton, and the Live Art
Development Agency financially assisted by AHRC. Documentation by Christa Holka.

Give & Take 2

(This was the idea I won yesterday.) 

 I asked students, lecturers and the other performance artists in attendance at the Where Land Meets Water live art event at Southampton Solent University yesterday to supply trashed ideas for artworks. These ideas were then raffled away and we now all have one year to complete them. Wish me luck!

for our freedom years - ends this Friday

29 October – 11 November 2011
5 Fournier Street, London, E1 6QE

for our freedom years is a reaction to ‘women’s culture', to the idea that as women we share the same ideals, beliefs and problems, fundamentally the same identity; an identity that is expected and in many cases embraced by females in mainstream society. This exhibition explores the multitude of categories imposed on women throughout historical and popular culture and how they hold little relevance to the reality of femininity. Artists Gemma Donovan and Kerry Clark take us on an investigation of what it means to them to be women through the playing out of these archetypes.

Working with the atmosphere of Town House shop, the artists chose to combine the art with antiques, creating a playful relationship between the work, the spectator, the historic and the domestic. The viewers are asked to explore the space and seek out the art.

-for our freedom years events----------

5 Nov 2011
‘Women Talk Women in Art!’ took place in the heart of every home, the kitchen, where FOFY’s lived out their dreams of domestic godliness through the supply of Victoria sponge cake, gingerbread ‘men’ and  of course every gossips sidekick; tea. Oriana Fox presented Performance Art Can Change Your Life for the Better, the awe inspiring story of self transformation from the shy ‘plain Jane’ to the self-assured and hugely glamorous Oriana, host of the O Show. Oriana took the attendees, including Queen Mary’s Women in the Arts Society and Caroline Halliday who runs Sir John Cass’ Feminist Group, on a journey of how her influences have shaped her work, and ultimately how performance has improved all aspects of her life.  

forourfreedomyears.blogspot.com (coming soon: forourfreedomyears.com)