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'I Wash My Hands of You'

Filmed performative drawing, charcoal dust on paper, 440 x 330 cm 17/12/19

'I Wash My Hands of You' formed one of the final, more ambitious conclusions to a series of performative drawings. 

My intention was to create something symbolic yet instinctive. A recurring image for me at the time was of a group of women moving as one - I kept seeing it very strongly and so this became the driving force behind the piece's scale and set of actions. I felt a lot of influence from the work of Pina Bausch, a dancer and movement practitioner. Much of her work addresses the treatment of genders, as she portrays varying struggles for power, but she also creates scenes of near ritualistic reclamation of power by unified women.

The 'script' came very quickly to me, as I saw the course of events play out in my mind’s eye:

the intentions to be expressed were very much a built in 'theory' within the fabric of the piece. Initially, I wrote for a group of 12 women (12 being a significant number in relation to historically gendered groups), but I realised that in order to facilitate a performance/filming, I should begin with a smaller scale - just myself as a solo performer.

There were three actions that I executed, each with their own emblematic value, though I found them through a purely instinctive movement exploration.  

The first of these was walking - clean, modest and subdued movement around the space. Secondly came the rubbing of hands. This was the most important of the three, as I held in my palms, from the beginning of the piece, ground charcoal dust. The riddance of the dust from the hands, and its fall onto the white paper below acted as a form of documentation and brought about the feeling of washing and material cycles, 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust'. As a performer, I experienced a grounded sensation, a connection with my medium and tangibility between my actions and their visual effects. The moments of handling the dust were meditative. To contrast this, there was then a section of rhythmic clapping - to evoke the feeling of a somewhat sarcastic applause, as well as making a loud, abrupt social gesture to end the piece. Once the 'live section' had reached its conclusion, I explored the residue that had been left behind. Previously I had been looking at Yves Klein's work, specifically with the body and the potential for the imprints that it can leave. The dust prints certainly emulated this, even though the medium and process differed from his (as well as the intentions with which the marks were created in the first place). What struck me at this point was the fragility and transience of my process; the charcoal did not stick to the paper, and so when dismantled, its existence ceased to be.

'Performative drawing' as a genre, and way of making, holds a distinct appeal for me: it not only encompasses the physical act of making marks on a surface, but also the movement process that sits alongside this. The cause and effect sequence that occurs, forming an occasion that exists across time periods - from its live incarnation to the evidence of the event - fascinates me.

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