Responding to spoken word testimony

2022

Exploring performance art as an expression of testimony to investigate how art and memoir combine to create visual moments of shared experience. Also exploring how clothing can affect the objectification of the female body when performing.

Abstract written by Katie Barnes for a research conference 

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland guaranteed, as far as practicable, the equal right to life of the mother and unborn. In 2018, the amendment was repealed; in particular, the Repeal the Eighth movement drew upon the lived experiences of women under the Eighth in order to further their ‘vote yes’ campaign. In Sinead Gleeson’s 2019 work Constellations (2019), she states that “writing offers more cover than art – there are thousands of words to hide behind” (Gleeson, 2019, p.183), suggesting that art can be utilised as an alternative form of memoir to visualise personal experience. This paper considers how memoir and the artistic form intertwine as a response to trauma, but also how performance art can be used to illicit an emotional reaction from the audience in response to a political message. Through examining the role of groups such as Speaking of IMELDA, this paper explores how performance art was utilised as a political tool during the Repeal the Eighth campaign, enabling a deeper understanding into the role of performance art as a response to testimony. By exploring my own collaborative practice with a performance artist, I will also analyse how performance art can be utilised as a response to spoken word testimony, exploring the effect of the artistic female body on how testimony is perceived when it is presented visually.  This paper will ultimately investigate how art and memoir combine to create visual moments of shared experience by exploring the role of performance art as an expression of testimony.