Video still of On the Margin performance, 2003
On the Margin was a significant performance made for film in St Ives, 2003
The film (3 mins) was shown at Tulca, Ireland (2005), Wild Dog, London (2004), SEEN Leicester, (2004), The Phoenix, Exeter (2003), Serbia (2003)
The scored performance was sited on the shoreline, binding (rolling myself up in a huge linen cloth 20 metres long), slowly unravelling again and then dragging the wet cloth down to the sea. This was performed twice and filmed and the resulting film edited together.
The performance refers to the mother’s body as a liminal space, a boundary between life and death. Julia Kristeva writes of this body, as a margin that cannot be exceeded in phallo-centric discourse.My interest in using visual means to reference theory and discourse is to undermine and find ways of subverting or appropriating the meanings we have for the gendered body. If it were possible to undermine such discourses, women might break free of stereotypical associations and psychoanalytic denial of subjectivity for women. The body is not associated here with the land or sea, it is an-Other space between. The margin between the land and the sea is used as a metaphor for a liminal space where conscious and unconscious elide, and is a metaphor for escape.
The additional metaphors of the female body as bound, encased and encoded and subsequent unravelling and freedom, are obvious, but what was not evident until viewing the film footage was that the cloth that has qualities of being both shroud and cocoon. The body looks mummified by the layers of linen and linking it to religious iconography.
The visual physical and theoretical movement and metaphors in the work have the intention to posit, renew, and
‘to construct a new subject position which makes women typical, where birthing is neither monstrous or abnormal, to find new models of the self and relationships and new ways of thinking identity’.
(Christine Battersby in Phenomenal woman: feminist metaphysics and the patterns of identity)