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Title: Seducing the machine : narcissism and performance in contemporary feminist practice
Author: Nolan, Katherine
Awarding Body: University for the Creative Arts/University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis concerns the prevalent western concept of femininity as narcissistic and exhibitionist, and addresses the stereotyping notion that women are obsessed with their appearance and preoccupied with themselves as the object of the gaze. This notion is also examined in a video performance art practice that draws on a central concept of 'seducing the machine ', a model of gendered behaviour in which a woman's apparent 'love for the camera' encodes her as a submissive, subordinate object via the logic of the male gaze. The thesis explores how such images of femininity demand a 'becoming' in a self-perpetuating cycle: images of femininity beget further such images. The central question is whether a heightened and self-conscious performance of such narcissistic becoming can challenge this process, rather than simply continue to repeat its terms. In order to consider this question, psychoanalytic concepts of narcissism and their application to the analysis of socio-cultural patterns of the gaze will be investigated, exposing in particular Freud' s apparently contradictory view that a woman is at the same time narcissistic and exhibitionist. Various views that may pose problems for feminist discourse in relation to the erotic representation of women will be examined, as will the ways in which ' raunch' images have leached into mainstream visual culture. There is a popular view that the offer of 'narcissistic becoming' that is posed by sexually explicit images equates to liberation and empowerment: I shall use Judith Butler's concept of ' performativity' to suggest that such narcissism is a key driver of self-regulation in tem1s of gender norms. The historical oppression of women by the 'masculinised machine' raises concern about the way in which digital technology has normalised self-imaging practices. I shall test the parameters of the politics of women's self-representation, in order to consider strategies that may subvert, transgress and disrupt habitualised modes of spectatorship in the context of a hyper-visual society. During the history of performance practice, various artists have deliberately heightened women' s sexualised role in order to challenge an over-determined relationship to the (self) image. The issue of sexuality continually threatens to undermine the criticality of women's performance art practices, and case studies of Helen Chadwick, Pipilotti Rist and Jemima Stehli will explore how these artists attempt to subvert prevailing cultural notions of women by stressing the artist/model ' s relationship to the camera. My performance practice involves inhabiting stereotyped images of sexualised display such as burlesque and soft porn, which demand a 'becoming' through glamorisation. It heightens the 'desiring' relationship with the camera in order to examine how the pleasure of narcissistic becoming works, via the familiarity of habitual cultural scripts, to disavow codes of subordination, submission and even dehumanisation. By making explicit the process of ' becoming the image' , and pushing the performance of ' love for the camera' to its limits, my work seeks to subvert the idea of women' s addiction to their own image.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: L321 Women's Studies ; W100 Fine Art