Her Need to Amplify / Leonora Oppenheim (2019)

Her Need to Amplify

Author: Leonora Oppenheim

Course: MFA Creative Practice

Year: 2019

Keywords: Dancers -- psychology, Embodiment, Live art, Performance--Psychological aspects, Women artists--Psychology,


This thesis poses the question: How can I, as a woman in contemporary western society, use the physicality of my body to understand the ways in which I thwart my own ambitions? This MFA programme has offered me the opportunity to develop a new area of creative practice, that of employing my body in a live art context. Drawing on my experience as a visual artist, I have chosen to explore the psychology of self-limiting beliefs through movement and mark-making.

The desire to make space for myself in the world feels to me like a risky journey. It requires vulnerability, the willingness to be seen and the exposure of not knowing. This challenging process initially appears to cost me in terms of self-doubt and anxiety, but it could also reward me with, potentially, a new expanded territory in which to work as an artist.

My research focuses on what it means for a woman to tell the story of her mind by centering her own body in public performance. What effect does this practice, of physical presence through movement and mark-making, have on the female mind and body in question? This project has been informed, primarily, by the writings of Linda Nochlin, Peggy Phelan, Donna Haraway, Judith Butler and Hélène Cixous in the fields of art history, cultural theory, gender studies and psychoanalysis.

This work can also be located in a lineage of female artists who used their bodies in live art contexts to express the experience of their interior worlds. I look particularly at artists who broke new ground in this arena in the 1970s and 1980s, such as Carolee Schneemann, Joan Joanas, Deborah Hay, Trisha Brown, Marina Abramovic, Yoko Ono and Rebecca Horn. Various works by these artists have been influential in the development of my research.

Through examining the mental and physical requirements for a solo performance about self-perception, I reflect on why society seeks to control female bodies, as much in 2019 as it did in 1975, when Carolee Schneemann performed her landmark work Interior Scroll. Furthermore, how does my identity, or ‘Habitus’ as Pierre Bourdieu calls it, influence my self-expression in performance? By playing with notions of augmentation, perfectionism, and production, my body becomes a site for debate about the personal (my experience of self-limiting beliefs) and the universal (the continued oppression of women in society).

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Oppenheim, Leonora. (2019). Her Need to Amplify (Masters’ theses). Retrieved https://researchonline.trinitylaban.ac.uk/oa/thesis/?p=1272