“Dining Room Table: Hammering Out Gender Performativity”
Dining Room Table: Hammering Out Gender Performativity is a video installation that aims to elaborate two themes: gender performance throughout history and the present; and how feminism is relevant in today’s society. These critiques have been inspired by the lack of interest and knowledge in feminism, portrayed by the younger generation that I associate with (friends, family, students whom I TA). My aim for this project was to create a discourse of looking that allows a younger generation to talk about feminism in a subtle and comfortable way. To do this, I chose to represent masculinity and femininity through culturally generated iconography and stereotypical gender performances. I used labour as a method of distinguishing masculinity and domesticity as an icon for femininity based on cultural ideas of gender roles. My work challenges hegemonic ideas of gender performance throughout society, by juxtaposing two normalized gendered practices: construction and domesticity. I lean towards using cultural objects, practices and performances to critique social constructions. Thus, I use domesticity as one side of the spectrum and construction as the other. For decades, labour and domesticity have been considered binary and gendered. This notion of binary is inspired by Philosopher Judith Butler’s critique on gender as a culturally constructed idea and social performance (1999). Instead of directly comparing female and masculinity, I am linking domesticity and labor, two historically gendered performances. Thus, we can critique domesticity as a gendered feminine performance and labor and work as a masculine performance.
The video illustrates this by incorporating three themes: the past, present and future. The iconography and props in my video strongly depicts time differences. The Mise-‐En-‐Scène and cinematography of this work is essential. I wanted to depict the past in two clear ways: the first, by assuming the character of a 1950’s housewife and second with 1950’s film cinematic elements (ie. Black and white, natural lighting) and very basic editing techniques (continuous editing, dissolves to show the passage of time). The past concept, was meant to allow the viewer to think about previous gender related troubles. The present is depicted in the setting. The setting is a modern kitchen with new technology (dishwasher, microwave). I wanted to comment on how feminism is pursued and saw today. Finally, the alien is a strong futuristic, sci-‐fi illusion. The alien appears to have no gender, thus indicating a world beyond gender binaries and performance. The alien questions this possibility. The performance and video was presented On November 27th 2014 at the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts. The performance was designed to illustrate my ideas, artistic process and final product. I would appreciate the opportunity to do an artist talk on my performance and work to go into more detail about the process and ideologies behind my work. I have had many students, Professors and colleagues approach me about wanting to see documentation of the performance and I believe this would be a great way of showing those who are interested my work in dept. A short excerpt of my video can be found here:
Stéphanie McKnight (Stéfy) is a first year MA candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. Initially from northern Ontario, Stéfy began her career as a visual artist while undergoing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Nipissing University in North Bay. Interested in how cultural themes relates to ideas of social construction, her research focuses on social sorting, gender performativity, and surveillance post Edward Snowden (2013). Stéfy’s research areas are broad, which indicates her passion for connecting and linking cultural ideologies to every day life. Her primary artist medium is installation art in forms such as site specific, video and media; and object related installations.