Archives for posts with tag: Gender Politics

Written by Dani Abulhawa

Continued from Post #1 (17.7.14).

The politics of MILK by Nicola Canavan and other performances presented at Hazard, including Kris Canavan’s The Leveller, No More Page Three’s Hidden Women Trail, and Stephen Donnelly’s Driftmob is something I’d like to return to in more detail for another post, but for this I wanted to look at the response from some members of the public to have a selfie taken in front of Canavan.

There were only a couple of occasions when this happened, and both times that I witnessed it, it was adolescent boys who posed for a selfie during the first half of the piece whilst Canavan’s face was covered. There is something very interesting in this act; it comes across as a performance of bravado, since both people taking selfies were posed in front of a fairly large crowd of people. It is an attempt to take control of the space, to re-orient our attention onto the person making the selfie and to detract from the work (look at me). It is also an attempt to make a ‘souvenir’ from what is clearly a very thoughtful and carefully constructed piece; to designate this performance as strange spectacle and object (here I am in front of ‘art’).

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The selfie is not really about documentation, but primarily broadcast. It is an affirmation that ‘I am here’; it is an act of placing the self into a stream of communication. The selfie as interruption, in this instance of Canavan’s work, is a way of recognising that something important and serious is being communicated, and the desire to want to subvert that, to make a joke of it, to diminish its power. These selfies, then, are a signal that there was something very powerful and pertinent generated through people’s engagement with MILK.

An event like Hazard raises several interesting issues, aside from the explicit politics a piece of work is engaged with. Particularly in relation to what ‘we’ designate as art – something Martin Hamblen piece Level Head dealt with – and the reclaiming of public space as a site for verbal and physical expressions of difference, discussion and interaction between strangers.

Image credit: Sarah Spanton, Nicola Canavan

 

Written by Dani Abulhawa

Nicola Canavan’s MILK garnered a lot of attention not only because it subverted the commercial space of St. Anne’s Square (as all the Hazard performances did in their own ways), but also because it raised a political question through the physical display of a woman expressing breast milk in a disused shop window. Several other performances addressed political issues explicitly – a notable example in reference to this piece would be No More Page Three, who put together a tour of great women, also located in shop windows – across the city centre.

Canavan entered the window space wearing a long red evening gown and a headdress of flowers that covered her face entirely. She was positioned, with the help of an usher onto an ornate chair in the right hand window. In the left hand window were several artefacts, including a taxidermy butterfly pinned behind a frame, the skull of an animal – perhaps a dog or a fox, and a decanter with two sherry glasses. After the expressing of milk, Canavan was joined by her partner who entered carrying their baby. Canavan removed the veil of flowers from her head and her partner, Kris (who also presented work at the event in a piece entitled The Leveller), poured the expressed milk into two sherry glasses. The couple toasted each other before drinking the milk, and following this Canavan returned to her seat and breast-fed their child for the remainder of the performance.

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Questions surrounding the act of breast feeding in public have been circulating the UK’s collective public consciousness recently, with reports that women have been asked to refrain from feeding their babies in restaurants and other public places, alongside a general feeling that breasts are seen to be more publicly acceptable when they are presented in a sexual context (Page 3, men’s magazines, etc.) rather than when women are feeding babies.

To be continued on 18.7.14 …

Image credit: Sarah Spanton, Nicola Canavan