My practice is multi-faceted, consisting of videos and installation, live performance, interventions into existing spaces, as well as text, spoken word, script and print-making. My work is concerned with the presentation and construction of body within online and libidinal, maternal space and the metaphorics of space and place associated with the Internet’s interface hardware and software. Often collaborating with an all-female cast of volunteers and participants: amateur and professional weightlifters, spray tan beauticians, dancers, ‘tequila-girls’, strippers, midwives, sound engineers and translators, my practice provokes carnivalesque, pulsating spaces, referencing contemporary game playing, performance and what it means to “share”.
I am interested in fattening spaces so that they become full and chaotic, while at the same time flattening, compressing and reducing, so that the spaces themselves are nothing but screens or skins.
My work has been shown at the Serpentine Gallery, London, Tate Modern, London, Kunst Museum, Bonn and Yorkshire Sculpture Park and she has performed at Frieze Art Fair, London and Performa in New York. She recently co-founded the Ruskin Centre for performance at Oxford University and is currently doing a practice-led PhD in Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Art, supervised by Corin Sworn and John Cussans.
My doctoral research is focused on the construction of body, embodiment and intimacy within 'virtual' and 'real' space. I am interested in the relationship between online bodies and ‘real- life’ locations, actual territory and virtual situations, as well as the visual and libidinal economies that connect these spaces. Within my practice, I examine how online subjectivity, and my own experience of the economies that exist within this space, have been constructed in and through new forms of political visuality. I reflect on this by manipulating how biography (my own and others) and borrowed, abstracted images become re-framed and re-constructed. As my research has delved deeper, I have become focused on the experience of the maternal in both real and virtual spaces. My project documents and diarises my fertility, pregnancy and birth, through video, sound, text, print and performance. The work investigates how the maternal operates within the online and how motherhood is performed (researched, imaged, networked) in contemporary space.
As part of the visual research I have made a number of video and performance based works. For example, “Cashino Desert", both a performance and video work, is based around ideas of female fertility and production and reflects on an economy of fertility we see in other spaces such as the Internet and the stage. In “Cashino Desert” the idea of incubation doubles up within womb and desert when a pregnant body travels through a digital desert in Nevada and Las Vegas. Although the desert is a dry, sparse landscape, ideas around wetness and bodies reflect an alien desire to connect with both digital and performed language. As part of my Transfer exam, I made a live performative version of “Cashino Desert”, at the Zabludowicz Collection, while I was pregnant. The performance consisted of a large-scale screen, displaying the video. The sound of the video was performed live by three musicians. For the first part of the performance, I began by lying in a lit birthing pool, directly underneath the video. I then got out of the pool, and began to rap, accompanied by the musicians. The screen was the size of a billboard and there was a huge difference in scale between the audience and the performance. For me, I felt that risk was a large part of this work. As a pregnant woman, I felt that I pushed my body to the limit by performing in such a way.
I also had a solo exhibition at Carroll/Fletcher, London where I produced video works including “Stressful, Anxious, Insomnia Fat”, “Nut Allergy”, “Complaining”, “Lolita” and “Baby Bowl” which featured a video work projected into a birthing pool shown with my collection of gynaecological equipment. Inspired by a recent App purchase, the “Glow” app, which monitors the physical and emotional daily body, the exhibition was a visual bombardment continuum of the sensitised, flatness the Internet prescribes to our intestinal, visceral beating body. Juxtaposing projected videos of flesh, fat and weight-loss with digital print outs of virtual, flattened bodies, the installation was immersive and cut-out on multiple levels. Performance took place on the opening night with real female weightlifters in the space, a spray tan artist and a rap performance. In the videos, Sumo wrestlers became flat and weightless, but refattened as they were overlaid with my Glow entries describing my daily mood and menstrual cycle. The layering of images and accelerated soundtrack of allergy concerns, complaints, and repetitions, together formed a pulsating environment of anxious delirium, while toes, feet, and surgically reconstructed nipples abound in stickers across the walls, and drew attention to emotionally charged parts of the body.
During my early research, I held one of my seminars in a nail salon in Oxford, “Amy’s Nails”. I invited members of the group to have their nails done and installed a soundtrack in the salon. By staging a seminar in a nail salon, I intended to investigate key research questions around shared experience, community and intimacy. This included understanding how the supposedly “safe” space of a seminar in a university context would be disrupted when changed to a public site, and not just any site, but a site of personal grooming, where intimate exchange happens in a public way. I wanted to provoke questions around how intimacy could be managed in a real nail salon and I was interested in ideas of touching, sharing and community, but also rituals around labour and female work.
My most recent video “Pump” has culminated from time spent documenting my pregnancy and birth through video and audio. For example, “Second Trimester” and “Third Trimester” are two short videos made during the middle and last stages of my pregnancy. They document my fattening body in two different ways. In “Second Trimester” my pregnant abdomen performs for the camera, while words and objects are overlaid in quick succession. The focus is on the stomach and there is no head, voice, breasts or legs visible, as if time is suspended in gestation and the narrative becomes entirely naval-centric. In “Third Trimester” my pregnant body is cut, distorted and contorted to provoke a sense of anxiety and unrest. This time, my entire body and head is present and I capture the video on my phone, as I sit on a workout mat at the gym. My body is manipulated so that it appears as both flattened and fattened on the screen. The audio, made from a computerised female voice, is frenetic and stressful. The video “Pump” explores economies of mothers, bodies and pain, with particular reference to breastfeeding trauma, the technology of breast pumping and mastitis. The video traverses between a medical, maternal body and that of the sexualised or desired body.
As my PhD has developed, more and more material has been produced and weight has been added so as to form something heavier and more substantial, the research becoming fatter by the day with more video, sculpture, prints, sounds, performances and babies. The final aim will be to fatten the research by adding more and more to it, but also to flatten it, so that it becomes a screen for the work to be situated within and on top of.