art installation

Re-negotiations of the abject: installation-performance

From Mother-Works writing, by Delpha Hudson, 2017

‘I had begun working with Kristeva’s idea of the abject. Not just simply using repulsive cast off substances but developing a creative conflation of ideas about the maternal (from Mary Kelly’s writing) and the pre-Symbolic as liminal  – neither inside or outside matter. Linking the abject to decay I made sculptures from any materials I could get my hands on (metal, clay, paper, cloth, stones, leaves), and  began material processes that would make them rot, rust or partially burn. I also experimented with simultaneously preserving and destroying objects by adding salt or latex.

Sometimes the objects I saved were children’s clothing in Loss, 1998

For Something Special/Something Inbetween/, 2001, I began to conflate the notion of the abject with in-between, ambiguous states. This personal-imaginary use of materials connected with the body in flux between preservation and destruction provided metaphors not only for absence and disappearance (the absence of a female Subject and the void of motherhood), but metaphors for the maternal body existing fluidly between multiple subjectivities, and existing in liminal spaces of natality between life and death.

What I called abject processes were presented as installations and often combined with performance and video. Performance and video strategies introduced time-based strategies involved in decay, disappearance and personal experience through memory and forgetting. Materials and objects that had metaphorical resonances with caring and mothering carry with them symbolic dualities of presence and absence and can simultaneously propose multiple spaces between both.’

art this way sign

In the studiorelationships between objects, performance and language

I have discovered a small sanctuary in having a studio and applying conceptual performance and feminist theory to working processes and the manipulation of objects and materials. My studio practice has often been about thinking through things. Studio practice can be a ‘physical manipulation of the world’ as ‘an assertion of being’ (Pollock, G., 2017, p.106).

There are multiple ways to explore performance, female subjectivity and selfhood through our relationships with objects, language and visual form. Materials are chosen for their symbolic resonance. In Domestic Mottoes, 2006, I juxtaposed objects and stories in a domestic space. For Lover’s Letters, 2012 the use of ceramic for written texts which relay dialogue about love and care made in the form of tree plaques and shown at Kestle Barton woods. My fascination with language based practices culminated with curating Salon de Textes, 2013-14 culminating with a series of events and performances. And of course I have always considered painting with household bitumen paint a conceptual material and process, often used to produce texts on objects for performances.

woman painting in a studio

From 2005-2015 I created small-scale wall sculptures made from found objects (including drift wood) and texts: the Objets-Textes project.

installation of small found object art pieces helston museum 2013
Une centaine de, installation of Objets-Textes wall sculptures at Helston Museum Gallery, 2013

Juxtaposing found objects, ceramic sculpture, paint, text and writing practices em-body lived experience. Embodiment can be an engagement with the world, a process mediated by continual interaction with other humans and with things (Judy Watson in Betterton, R., 2003, p. 67).

Embodiment, and corporeal interplay move beyond binaries to situated and dialogic knowledge, creating relationships and connections between things, people and ideas. Begriefen is a term used to describe touching and handling objects and material to make sense. I use and manipulate objects to embody ideas, and to symbolise and create connections between things.

Other sculpture projects often combine and juxtapose film, found objects, clay, text, painting and collaboration. Find out more about recent sculpture projects including Hope Chest, 2023, As above, so below, 2023, and Small Promethean Acts, 2019.

small assemblage art pieces using found objects

Or view other archive curatorial projects