Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Art History

Major Professor

Bradley Nickels, Ph.D.

Keywords

Art history, Performance theory, New media, Autobiography, Self-portraiture

Abstract

The task of documenting the evolution of the self over time has been attempted by women artists throughout history. The practice of this documentation has been greatly enhanced in the last several years by the progression of new technologies for the capture of digital images, the advent of the internet as a common textual and visual communication device, and the availability of free resources to publish and disseminate the resulting constructions. Women artists now have the tools needed to document the life of the self, and to publish it immediately to an audience. Most of the women documenting their lives on-line, in real time, do not consider themselves to be artists, and the art world has yet to embrace their practice as artistic activity. But as documents of women's performance, these sites are important historical, visual and cultural occurrences.

In addition to containing both textual and visual elements, these endeavors incorporate and elucidate the concept of performativity of gender. In watching these sites (cams and blogs) of women's performance over time, it becomes clear that identities are complex constitutive creations, on both sides of the computer screen. The women of this study are doing, making and inventing a way to assemble the stories of their lives for a reading and looking audience in a manner that calls attention to the way all subjects are made by language and culture. The sites of these productions, located in the space of the internet, offer the spectator an opportunity to interface and form relationships with visual materials and contents. In the space opened up between viewer and artist/performer, identity work can be accomplished and the masquerade of femininity can be critically assessed in new and engaging ways.

The challenge and the promise of this research: the journey into the spaces of these sites, with all of their varied formations of identity and performance as woman, will provide a document that both claims these practices as unique artistic performances of self and delineates new possibilities for looking.

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