Photos: Womanspeak: The Mechanics of Fluid

by Beauchamp Art

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Womanspeak: The Mechanics of Fluid

Documenting a performance by Elizabeth Loughran and Kirstin Bicker.

In this, the figures sat across from one another, on folded knees, picking up and passing broken sheets of salt dough between them (an inedible food item to be masticated but not consumed, in this circumstance anting like the cud of two mouths) , taking a bite and spitting it onto the ground next to them after each exchange. This rhythm was sustained through the performance, except towards the end, where the variated by both eating and regurgitating the material simultaneous, but otherwise, it was a pair action of turn taking, a conversation.


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The photos were relatively simple, as both the figures were illuminated and wearing dark colours against a light background. However, the light coming from the spot lights was a warmer tone than the other lighting, such as that coming through the skylight in the space. Nevertheless, I was able to take a range of pictures at varying depths; though I wanted to make sure I had a balanced number of photos of each performer to best reflect the mutual contribution to the event.

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I also gathered some images of the audiences viewing the allegorical conversation, along side a few macro shots of the salt dough on the floor soaked with saliva (which I attempted to photograph in mid-flight for dramatic effect, and its pivotal role as indicated by the title of the work, and the ensuing dehydration caused by the salt), as documentation of the objects within the performance. Given the lighting conditions, and the slightly warm-cream tinge to the dough, I gave the pictures a slight teal and orange colour scheme (favoured by contemporary producers of cinema trailers), this also meant that the fair skinned figures wore the same almost bone-like hue as the dough, thereby embodying it with a subtle anthropomorphism.

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“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman.” [Genesis 2: 23] This biblical quotation also could be seen to effectively foreshadow the following performance, Foreign Flesh.

Furthermore, The Mechanics of the Fluid is not only an interesting performance when considered within the Art or Sociological realm, but also when observed from a Theological perspective. In Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay, he parodies the Geneses creation myth using the Hebrew figures of golems, slaving automatons longing for freedom and a form of humanity, whom invoke the phrase ‘Clay of my clay’, which also fits in with the other Abrahamic creation myth in Islam, where man is sculpted by Allah from the clay of the earth, and ties back in to the performances, in which you pass the salt dough/clay to one another, sharing in the flesh, the words; communication as humanity.

So to deny the right to communicate freely would be to deny humanity, which is especially problematic when considered alongside the notion of the woman as being one who is seen but not heard, and who’s conversation is seen as lesser than a male discourse. Womenspeak is labelled trivial, secondary, the flesh given, not formed independently. In Biblical terms, this could be seen to reflect the role of Lilith, the first wife of Adam who was made at the same time and made equal, and was subsequently punished for refusing to be subservient.