Written in Milk, performance, 2001
These performances were inspired by Helene Cixous and ‘ecriture feminine.’ Messy sticky and smelly substances (later bitumen paint in paintings) were used to evoke theories about women’s bodies and the home. These materials were used to create textual and ephemeral installations that engaged all of the senses.
Written in Milk, durational performance, Dartington Hall, Devon, 2001
In addition to the references to a mother’s work, the long hours feeding and educating children, this performance writes the maternal body in order to enunciate it.
The room was filled with the sweet, sweet smell of almond oil warming in milk. The milk was used to write on a huge white cotton sheet that covered the span of the space (approximately 30×25 metres). Writing unconscious streams of text about motherhood (whatever came into my head) onto the cloth, took all day. Instead of completely disappearing the milk soaked through the cloth, leaving fatty deposits the floor underneath. The writing on the cloth was only partly legible and too large to be completely read or understood yet the smell of milk becoming stale over the course of the day enabled a different legibility.
The durational performance refers to ‘ecriture feminine’ (Helene Cixous) and writing the maternal body in order to enunciate it. It uses smell as well as vision to convey visibility for women’s lived experience of motherhood.
Description of work: the room is filled with the sweet, sweet smell of almond oil warming in milk. The milk is used to write on the white cotton that covers the huge span of the studio space (aprox 30×25 metres). Writing unconscious streams about my experiences of motherhood takes all day. Instead of completely disappearing, the milk soaks through leaving illegible fatty deposits on the cloth and the floor underneath. The room now smells disgusting and of stale milk.
Written in Honey, performance-installation, Helmsley Castle, Yorkshire, English Heritage residency, 2002
Researching domestic histories of the period c. 1500 –1600, I used a combination of historical documents and fiction to write onto a huge voile cloth with local honey dripped from a stick. Voile is a semi-transparent material which when coated with honey becomes transparent. When the cloth was made into window hangings for the Tudor Mansion House, the light through the windows shone through the honey and revealed the text that had been inscribed onto it.
This process became a metaphor for all the lost, semi-invisible histories of women’s domestic lives that were not recorded historically because they were not thought significant enough.
In addition to workshops the site-specific voile window hangings were on show for a month in the Tudor Mansion House at Helmsley Castle.
View more more using messy and smelly substances.