Performativity in art as reconstructions of the self in addressing conditions of depression
Van Wyk, Vicki Alexandra Ross
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The motivation for this research results from the notion that art-making is a regenerative enriching process that can counteract the sense of dislocation that one suffers as a consequence of depression. The study has two objectives: to open a discourse around the transformative function of art for a person suffering depression; and challenge notions of dominant constructed ideals of normality by presenting alternative realities of the performative mind. From the earliest memories of my life, I knew I did not fit in, I was not part of the crowd. Depression has been my companion ever since I can remember. The intention for this self-study is to interrogate the ways in which art can become a self-actualising process in coping with depression. The content for this research deals with narratives of the mind, that is, my understanding of who I am. I have therefore, positioned myself as the pivot for this research, drawing on authentic personal experiential knowledge. This autobiographical phenomenological study is thus a self-reflexive exploration addressing concepts of difference and belonging in relation to social constructs of acceptability. The study looks at contemporary concepts of multiple selves, relationality and the application of therapeutic methodologies within art practice. Art-making becomes games of truth, mind games that offer alternative realities and possibilities for the construction of complex, multi-faceted narratives as dialogues between the self and the inner critic. Of importance is the concept that self is not a fixed conclusive notion but one that continues to unfold, shift and become a multi-layered construct. These new narratives examine how creativity enables or creates a sense of belonging or re-positioning of one’s states of mind. The overall intention of the art-making process is its potential for transformative self-recovery processes – the re-construction of who we are, rather than how we are perceived. This research thus examines the notion of belonging in this world through body/land enactments of ritualised behaviour. The body as metaphor investigates rites of passage as the re-tellings of one’s story within specific body/site/space relationships. The ideal of connection to site is central as a means of renewal and recovery – these performative relationships become the creative meaning-making processes of locating or positionality. In support of these ideas and concepts, the work of Ana Mendieta, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Suzanne Lacy are considered in relation to ideals of positionality and as reflecting each artist’s ethics or paradigms of equality. Artworks are examined against the notion of locating oneself within social contexts. The aim is to question the intention and outcomes of art-making as social function in dealing with issues of marginalisation and stigma. Performativity, personal writings/reflections and memory drawings are the quintessential tools of my art-making. The written psychological renderings and unravellings of my mind, questionings that are both reflexive and critical, are intentionally presented in dialogical, conversational and direct modes. This personal tone aims to allow a scope into my mind – it is my perspective from the inside, my voice, my personal understanding of the potential of art as a metaphorical process of transformation. Lacy asserts that the artist becomes a witness, reporter and analyst for socio-culturally biased concerns; a performance gives public articulation and permission to speak out loud, gives voice to internal dialogues, reveal information that requires questioning and that personal individual experience has profound social implications. Lacy believes that it is an innate human need to reflect on the meaning of one’s life and one’s work (2010:176-177). Central to the findings of this study, are both the transgressive and transformative functions of art.