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Darcey Bradbury

first performed on October 18, 2018
Primary, Nottingham, UK
performed once in 2018


Shrewsbury, UK


“In Search of the Feminine” was an exploration of ideas about the “feminine” being a social construct. I was concerned with the masquerade and performative nature of femininity, and the display and objectification of the female body as commodity within Capitalist society. I wished to subvert the prevailing tropes of femininity as prescribed through a patriarchal lens. With the performance, I was exploring and interrogating social boundaries and acceptable codes of exposure. There is an appropriate/inappropriate dichotomy, particularly in relation to femininity. I hoped that the work elicited a visceral response from the viewer, and caused them to experience a heightened awareness of their own body.

The idea that the female body can be acted upon and coerced by external forces must be disrupted to reframe the body as active and autonomous. The performance referenced an anti-aesthetic, a disruption of the social and symbolic ordering of the female body, exploring a rejection of woman as idealised surface. The work questioned and disrupted the idea of a proper social body and confronted the viewer with its abjection, refusing containment and allowing immersion with bodily fluids. The work attempted to erode the fetishishtic dominant structures of patriarchal Capitalism. By presenting the abjectness of the body, the work both solicited and repelled the viewer, and refused the link to commodity culture. The work subverted the socially dictated artificial femininity represented through media imagery, femininity which is something that must be purchased and imposed artificially upon the surface of the female. The performance explored the status and value of the art object, and dematerialisation—the destruction and indeterminacy of the objects.

The process was within the hands of the audience, transformation as performative. The audience were active agents within the destruction of the artificial construction of gender within a patriarchal society. The work invited the audience to engage with and reflect upon an evolving disruption. The performance was not a static installation and evolved/devolved unpredictably in time. The destructive element of the work related to the unstable nature of femininity. The nature of femininity as performative, rather than given or fixed.

The destruction of 365 unfired porcelain vulvas was the enacting of a transformation. The performance allowed the audience to physically interact with the work and to unwittingly temporarily subvert those gender norms through the action of play.