A Spoonful of Beauty
Our final performance idea was to explore the roles of women from past to present, focusing on the use of make-up. We were inspired by Bobby Baker as we were intrigued with the way she uses foodstuffs throughout her performances, “a painter usually desires to create an image that will last, ideally a ‘masterpiece’ for all time; an image to be bought and owned, by a private collector, or by a gallery, a public space, a visual archive to be visited by succeeding generations of viewers” (Barrett and Baker, 2007, 30). We wanted to explore this further and respond to the female nudes exhibited within the Usher Gallery. As foodstuffs will perish and decompose we wanted to perform a piece of feminist site-specific work that will only be performed once with traces left behind. We explored this idea by applying raspberries to our faces as make-up then gradually pasting them to the rest of our bodies.
I scooped jam into high heels which I then wore to represent the pain that women go through to look feminine. We wore jammy dodgers on our nipples to sexualise our bodies with food, to pinpoint what men find sexual about women. By using these particular foods also hints towards women being motherly and/or housewives which is another stereotype that surrounds women. This will be further hinted at with the middle cubicle having been wallpapered with pages from recipe books, etiquette books and rules for women on how to look and behave.
We were also influenced by Karen Finley and the monologues that she performs. When “onstage […] [she] represents a frightening and rare presence – an unsocialized woman” (Hart and Phelan, 1993, 141). Karen Finley became an influence for us as we wanted to perform in a way that might shock the audience when we performed, which we developed through the abjection of raspberries, jam and jammy dodgers. Although we were inspired by Finley’s way of performing, we wrote our performance text in the language of écriture féminine. We needed to learn how to write ‘ourselves’ as women, to be personal but political.
We performed within the toilets of the basement of the Collection Museum to women only. This is because our performance was for women by women, just like how the nude portraits of women were by men for men. We performed to only 2 members of the public at a time due to the size of our space and performed in three intervals – from 12:30 – 12:45, 12:45 – 1 pm, and 1 pm – 1:15. We didn’t include any audience interaction apart from at the start of our performance, where we asked them to walk down the stairs balancing a raspberry on a teaspoon for them to pop into the jar that I held. This was to include the spectators with our theme and title of A Spoonful of Beauty.
Barrett, M. and Baker, B. (eds.) (2007) Bobby Baker redeeming features of daily life. Oxon: Routledge.
Hart, L. and Phelan, P. (eds.) (1993) Acting Out: feminist performances. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.