Perfomativity in Art as Reconstructions of the Self in Addressing Conditions of Depression

  • 16 February 2015 - 21 February 2015
  • Main Gallery, Media Gallery, Mezzanine Gallery

The motivation for this MTech study 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 exhibition has two objectives: to open a discourse around the transformative function of art for a person suffering depression; and challenge notions 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. This performative self-study is an interrogation of the ways in which my art becomes a self-actualising recovery process. This exhibition deals with narratives of the mind, that is, conversations between who people think I am, my inner-critic and who I really am. My art is intimately connected to my life as related to my states of being, my mind-spaces in depression. I have therefore, positioned myself as the pivot for my art-making, drawing on authentic personal experiential knowledge. It is thus an autobiographical phenomenological self-reflexive exploration addressing concepts of difference and belonging in relation to social constructs of acceptability.

Performativity, personal writings/reflections and memory drawings are the quintessential tools of my art practice. I use visual and performative modes of practice to construct metaphors of embodied experiences. These psychological renderings and unravellings of my mind, my questionings, are 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 understandings of the potential of art as a metaphorical process of self-declaration and belonging.

I explore contemporary concepts of multiple selves, relationality and the application of several therapeutic methodologies within art practice. Art becomes games of truth, mind games that offer alternative realities and possibilities for the construction of complex, multi-faceted multi-layered narratives – dialogues between the self and my inner-critic. Self is not a fixed conclusive notion but one that continues to unfold and shift, becoming multi-dimensional constructs. These new narratives examine how creativity enables or creates a sense of belonging or re-positioning of one’s states of mind.

Performativity is about the doing, is fluid and temporal, presents alternative experiential insights, is not bound by tradition, requires repetition and importantly, places emphasis on outcomes, that of the re-invention of the self, rather than the art product. Body/land enactments of ritualised behaviour are presented as notions of belonging in this world. The body becomes metaphorical investigations, rites of passage as the re-tellings of my story within specific body/site/space relationships. These metaphorical manifestations of media, technique, process, performativity, site, space and duration, reconstruct who I am.
I have enacted my anger, drawn my pain, the ugliness, the hurt; I have drawn the chaos of my mind – it is has been absorbed into the media of the work. In this process of inquiry, I have reconstructed my truths; and for a while I belong. This is not the end, however. I will continue to discard my trauma and chaos in my making. It is a continual process of doing, renewing and reclaiming.

In dealing with issues of self-denial, performativity became a positive mode of addressing depressive symptoms. These actions became games of truth and power in which I could oppose socially-constructed notions of what is “difference” in relation to “acceptability”. My performative art practice is never-ending, is always changing and will continue to adjust. This follows the continual recurrence of depressive states – it cannot be cured, it can only be managed. However, knowledge is power. I can manage my low periods through reflexivity in repeated creative processes of performativity as modes of locating my self within time and place, continually re-positioning myself within changing contexts.

The overall intention of the exhibition is to explore the potential in creative practice as transformative – the re-construction of who we are, rather than how we are perceived.

It is not what one sees but rather what one experiences.


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