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e-zine Issue #1:
BLUD ZER0 Collective actively investigate socio-cultural debates
within art & politics from a feminist perspective. Through live
performance and online publications they challenge negative
representations of women in society, particularly within the
mainstream media in the UK. Their projects focus specifically on ways
in which Live Art and performance art can reinforce positive feminist
perspectives on the body, particularly the politics of the female body
in the public domain. They launch online zines centered around these
themes, each edition coinciding with a site-specific performance
This E-Zine will be launched at BLUD ZER0 Collective's performance
event 'The Vagina as Autonomous Zone' on 01/03/2013 at CAZ
(Cornwall Autonomous Zone)
BLUD ZER0 consider this zine a collection of research Materials,
a gathering of the thoughts & processes of others surrounding,
responding and engaging with the notion of the vagina as an
autonomous zone. The document has been composed with
image & text resting autonomously besides one another. This
queering of format reflects the fluidity of the content and
breadth of research included.
E-Zine compiled & curated by Poppy Jackson
 The Other Foreign Body
Camera As Probe
Video Still 2011
 Re-Action Pants
Athens School of Fine Art 2009
'This is a personal remake of VALIE EXPORT Action Pants (Genital Panic). The previous moment, the
instant where she cuts her trousers:
I go into the porn cinema, with a gun on my hand, like her. I move forward through the central
corridor until the screen. Leaving the gun next to me and looking into their eyes I start to cut out a
hole in my pants with scissors. The practice is over, I leave the piece of trousers on the floor, I pick up
the gun and pacing up and down through the aisles I leave the room.'
‘On probing one finds in liminality both positive and active
qualities, especially where that “threshold” is protracted
and becomes a “tunnel,” when the “liminal” becomes the
‘Active muscle, a moist
channel of paradoxical
Carolee Schneeman, Imaging Her Erotics; Essays,
Interviews, Projects
Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre;
The Human Seriousness of Play,
Dando a Luz 
Bone Festival, Switzerland
Angels Of The North Woods
Series 2012
Live performed and broadcasted from the Birmingham City University,
School of Art 2012
 Backstage
 Performance stills
 Backstage
Male to Female Sexual Reassignment Operation.
Since 2001 Amae has been investigating, through their art practice, the representation of
the psychological tension that is created in the body that results from the influence of
society. Their work also explores the theory of the Self, the perception of sexuality and the
therapeutic influence of art in the construction of identity.
For many artists their muses were the source of their inspiration and even the object of
their desire and dreams. For Amae the muse is a woman in a man's body.
Gaia grew up in a male body never thinking about herself as a man. As soon as she took
her first step into the retail business, she was rejected by the company she worked for.
Gaia is now 37 and she is still contemplating a sex change. Gaia is one person of many in
this situation. Amae spotted her and felt close to her feelings to the extent that it developed
an aesthetic which represents a merger between the artist and the muse. Many questions
arise from this artistic coupling. Where will these identities lead in their support of each
other? How can art be therapeutic in solving the challenges of the construction of an
identity lived at the edge of social norms?
Masturbating Onstage
The Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute
Of all the things I’ve ever done in my life, this “performance” was the most important
and enlightening. Here is some text about my infamous masturbation ritual, from my
book Post Porn Modernist. I invite and encourage you to try doing this “performance” as
well. Let me know how it goes.
Theater ushers go down the isles and offer each member of the audience a rattle made
from plastic cups with rice and seeds inside them. They are invited to shake their rattles
to the hypnotic sounds of Andrew McKenzie’s Hafler Trio. (Andrew made high-tech
recordings of the sex sounds of my body, sampled them, and made them into an unusual
piece of ‘music’ for the ritual, which are now available on a CD called Masturbatorium.)
Most audience members shake their rattles vigorously, which can create a lot of energy
and be very intense. Because I am wearing a wireless headset microphone, my breathing
and other sounds are amplified.
I proceed to awaken my body, to create pathways for sexual energy to flow through me
by stretching, undulating, shaking, and breathing. I slather myself with scented massage
oil, anoint my third eye with my menstrual blood (when available) which helps inspire
psychic visions. With the vibrator I stimulate my lips, tongue, the back of my neck, my
hara, the base of my spine, my anus and heart. Using deep, conscious, rhythmic
breathing, I gather energy from the audience and the universe in general, inhale it up
into my pussy, pull it up through my heart, and exhale it out the top of my head, giving it
back to the audience and universe, continuously orbiting energy, giving and receiving
When the time is right, I press the vibrator (on high) to my trusty clitoris, stimulate my
Goddess spot (g-spot) with my magic dildo, and gradually lift off into another dimension.
I am not in Kansas any more—or at Show World Center doing strip speak. It’s no fantasy.
It’s a very real, intense, wild ride, a close encounter of the fourth kind. A bizarre,
interactive art/life/sex experiment.
The ritual comes to a climax, lights blackout, and there is silence. Lights and music
gently come up. I remove my oily costume, false eyelashes and wig and sit naked on my
altar, heart open, nurturing the feelings of the afterglow. Audience members are invited
to either leave, or if they want, to stay and hang out.
The Ritual
I put on a costume that was designed from a dress I saw on an ancient granite statue of
a Sumerian priestess. It is topless and bottomless. The stage is transformed into an altar,
upon which are set gold candles and a copper bowl containing ghee and dried cow dung.
With a match I light the cow dung. It burns in a beautiful, inspirational, aphrodisiac
flame. To my right is a tray of objects—a loofa sponge, scented massage oil, tiger balm
(to stimulate my erogenous zones), several dildos, course salt for psychic protection,
items of personal meaning, plus something that ancient sacred prostitutes didn’t have,
but luckily we have today: a tireless, strong, battery-operated vibrator. I tell the history
of the ancient sacred prostitutes: “Women and sometimes men, from ancient cultures in
Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Egypt and Greece, devoted their lives to learning the art of
sexual ecstasy. Sex was very different for them than it is for most of us today. In the
temples, the main elements of sex were prayer, healing, ritual, and meditation. It was
believed that the best time to connect with the Divine, to get visions, and create miracles
was when you were in a state of sexual ecstasy.” I cast a circle and make an invocation:
“I call upon the spirit of the greatest sex experts and sexual healers that ever lived for
their wisdom and guidance.” With each candle I light, I make a prayer, for example: a
cure for AIDS, to find a house for rent on the beach for reasonable rent, better health for
a friend in the hospital, etc. I invite audience members to make a wish for themselves.
The idea is to then go into sexual ecstasy to take the prayers and wishes to the Divine,
just as they did in the ancient days.
My Notes About the Ritual
As with any kind of sex, or any kind of performance, some days are better than others.
Many variables influence the results: the type, shape, size, and feel of the theater, the
particular audience, whether the audience is mostly men or women, whether it’s a
weekday or weekend, what country I’m in, my head space and health, my technical crew,
the moon, the weather, world news, and who knows what else.
The intensity of masturbating on stage in front of hundreds of people brings up a
kaleidoscope of feelings that get magnified onstage. Oftentimes, I feel strong, happy,
compassionate, and powerful. Sometimes I feel sad, tired, angry, and vulnerable. I’ve
discovered that any kind of feelings can co-exist with sexual ecstasy, which is the basis
for my approach to sexual healing. Sometimes the experience is not about feelings but
about physical sensation, or energy. Often I trance out and travel far; sometimes I feel
like dead weight going nowhere. The key is to always try to practice acceptance of what’s
there, or not there, and to have no expectations.
So, do I have a REAL orgasm? This seems to be the foremost thing on many people’s
minds and what members of the press so often focus upon. (When someone doesn’t like
my show, they invariably say I faked an orgasm. And some people just assume that all
sex workers fake orgasm.) Why people are so hung up on this point is rather odd and
amusing to me. Having an orgasm was never the primary goal of this ritual. The ritual is
about learning and teaching, about provoking thoughts and feelings, and
I had no role models for public sex magic masturbation rituals. So when I started I didn’t
really quite know how to be or what to do. It took a lot of practice and refining, and I
made lots of mistakes. Once I tried flogging myself with a cat-o’-nine tails to stimulate
my skin, which didn’t really work and must have looked pretty weird. I tried blindfolding
myself during the afterglow part so I could stay in my erotic trance, because people
would want to talk with me, but I found that it broke my connection with the audience.
The camphor I used in the flame bowl to burn the cow dung gave me a horrible cough.
My healing ritual was making me sick! (I switched to Duraflame.) Finally, I performed the
masturbation ritual for thirty nights in a row in huge theaters of five hundred to nine
hundred seats. It took enormous effort to fill those “containers” energetically, and I
burned myself out to a crisp. That was the last time I did the ritual, and I’m still
about entering a state of ecstasy in order to bring prayers and wishes to the Divine. It is
about re-creating the feel of the ancient temples.
I would like to address the orgasm question once and for all. Most of the times I
performed the ritual, I experienced one or more types of orgasm; keep in mind that I
have a more expanded concept of orgasm than most folks. With the use of the cool
crystal dildo, I almost always had a vaginal, cervical, and/or G-spot orgasm (super easy
for me). I also usually had some kind of breath or energy orgasm—that’s when a buildup
of energy from the deep, rhythmic breathing is released, which feels similar to getting
the chills. About half the time, I had a clitoral orgasm, and about one-third of the time I
had a clitoral climax. For me these two are noticeably different. I experience clitoral
orgasms as smallish orgasms that radiate through the pelvis area; it’s possible to have
several or many. I experience clitoral climax as much more intense, starting in the clit,
radiating throughout the pelvis, then shooting up through the entire torso and out the
top of my head. With a clitoral climax usually comes a throat release of moans or
screams. My clitoral orgasms are not as obvious as my clitoral climaxes. On
approximately a dozen occasions I had what I call a full-body-mega-kundalinigasm,
where ecstasy-electricity streamed throughout my entire body for several minutes. Let
me tell you, nothing makes a girl feel more like a real live Goddess than a megakundalinigasm.
Sometimes my orgasms were very subtle, and sometimes they were very intense. And
sometimes I had no orgasms: at times my battery was empty, I didn’t feel much at all,
and those times were an important part of the whole and made the performances all the
more interesting and challenging.
My goal in this ritual was to be authentic and be in the truth of the moment, whatever it
was. I could see absolutely no point in faking an orgasm, and I never did. (The only time
in my life I have ever faked orgasms was in my first few years in porno movies. Back
then, I was not very orgasmic. We girls were expected to fake it on cue. Porn directors
didn’t think that going for a real orgasm was important or worth taking time for. For that
matter, in those days lots of people didn’t even believe women were biologically capable
of having orgasms!) I wore a tiny wireless microphone very close to my mouth, so
audience members could hear and feel the genuine quality of my orgasms.
Over four years, the ritual changed enormously from demonstrative, wild, physical,
animalistic, and loud to a more sensuous, subtle, gentle, and quiet performance. There
were nights when I felt really beautiful and sexy, and nights when I felt clumsy and silly.
After doing it for about two years, I became conscious of the deliciousness of nurturing
the afterglow. After the music and energy of the ritual climaxed, the audience had the
choice to leave the theater or to stay. Usually about a quarter of the audience would
stay. I would fall into a deep, silent meditation and often go deeper into my trance. The
atmosphere became incredibly sweet and heartfelt, and this was always my favorite part
of the entire show.
Contrary to what most people think, my motivation for masturbating onstage was not to
turn people on, to get attention, or to get off on being an exhibitionist. I wish it were that
simple. When so many people are witnessing you, it makes every little thing big and
clear. I was taking something that’s usually done alone in the dark, putting it under a
micro-scope, and shining beautiful theatrical light on it so we could all look at it together.
The theater setting became a laboratory in which to experiment; sex became a
microcosm for all of life. I learned a lot about how energy works, about how to do ritual
(I never had much training), and about trance states.
If I was feeling happy, it seemed like the whole audience was feeling happy. If I was
feeling uptight, the audience seemed uptight. I learned about letting go, about attaining
visions, and about being authentic and sensitive. I learned a lot about sexuality. It was
always my greatest hope that people witnessing the masturbation ritual would get
something out of it for themselves. Plus, I believe masturbation is an absolutely
wonderful thing, and I wanted to promote it.
Needless to say, this was the part of the show people either loved the most or hated the
most. Some people were totally uncomfortable watching me. They became disgusted and
even got angry. Some insisted that masturbation should only be done in private. Other
people reported they felt love and compassion, received inspiration, had a realization, or
had powerful feelings come up. Quite a few even reported having had spontaneous
orgasmic experiences. Women’s tears were always the greatest compliment, and there
were many. I learned more from doing this masturbation ritual than from anything I have
ever done in my life, and I consider it my most important work to date.
'Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute' was the climax of the one
woman show, Post Porn Modernist, which Annie Sprinkle performed in
16 countries, from 1990 until 1995. Sprinkle will be directing a new
version featuring three young porn stars of today.
Red is the Colour: Alison, Elena, Katya, Lee
Series 2009
'The photographic portrait series Red Is The Colour invited
women to pose in front of the camera without makeup and
were solely presented with menstrual blood on their lips
as if it were lipstick. These images expose the cultural
expectations of cosmetics and female representation,
reflecting upon ideas of media representation, societal
pressure and sexual identity.'
'The most sensitive and vulnerable sexual parts of woman
affected by touch are mucous membranes. Certainly this
part remains generally invisible, and one could say that
mucous touch is doubly invisible. But, in a culture which
privileges looking over touching, to be approached in the
internal mucous part of herself is perceived by a woman as
being seen. And, by the way, we can note that our
traditional medicine uses looking at as a means of curing
more than other cultures.'
Towards the Sharing of an Invisible Touch
Wondering Womb
A Disappropriation, of
Photo by Arto Polus 2011
'Britain’s first female porn director, Anna Span has won a historic victory with
the passing of her DVD, ‘Women Love Porn’ which includes a woman clearly
'On initial submission to the British Board of Film Classification, the board asked
for compulsory edits to remove the female ejaculation section, as they believed
the woman to be urinating and argued therefore it fell foul of the Obscene
Publications Act. Even though most countries worldwide which allow
pornography, do not single out female as opposed to male, ejaculation for
censoring, the BBFC historically do not believe in the phenomenon. They have
refused to pass previous films such as Ben Dover’s Squirt Queens in May 2001,
saying that they had not received a convincing enough argument to support the
existence of FE.'
'Determined to put the record straight, Anna Span presented the BBFC with
irrefutable scientific evidence in support of model DJ’s ability to ‘squirt,’ as it is
known in the adult industry. Anna says; "I am really proud to have changed
this outdated ruling and to have made a difference to women who experience
this in their own lives throughout the UK. It was never fair that the BBFC
dismissed their orgasms as urinary incontinence"'
Quotes from:
A story of performance
Slavka Sverakova and Sinead O'Donnell Interview Excerpts
Contemporary Art in Ireland
SS: Your use of gold leaf in Underbelly - any particular reason?
Sinéad O'Donnell: Backward, part 3, 2008, Nachlaot Neighbourhod, Jerusalem, Israel;
courtesy the artist
SS: In the evening of 20 September you made your performance in the Central Bus Station
in Tel Aviv. You wrote to me: "I will have an oversized baloon up my dress, I will sit and
apply gold leaf onto the outside of the dress, so that the bump underneath turns gradually
gold from the outside, just the stomach area... I will have a piece of paper from my
notebook in my knickers, because I have my period, and during the time of the
performance, I also bleed... no one will see this, for me it is a way of documenting what I
am doing from the point of view of my body..." Later on you actually did it. Have you
changed anything in response to that place?
Sinéad O'Donnell: Underbelly, Material Memory, part 5, 2008, Central Bus Station
Tel Aviv, Israel; courtesy the artist
SO'D: This time last year, I sat in my mother's kitchen drawing and I saw something gold
and moving; it was a sensational feeling or experience, intuitive and imaginary, part of my
personal process. Now I am sitting in the same kitchen at the same time of year, writing
to Slavka about it, twelve months on. The images and visuals in my mind of something
that needs to be gold, now, are getting stronger, becoming clearer with time.
SS: You used red ribbons in a performance in Ireland and now again in Israel. Is there a
SO'D: In Co. Cavan as part of the Cavan Arts Festival, organised by Joe Keenan and
curated by Bbeyond... The red ribbons were for threading of my tied-back hair and
contrasted with the large red balloon that I had stuffed up my black full-of-holes jumper. I
intended it as a reference to pregnancy and the current state of the abortion laws in
Ireland, the suppression of women, and an action that referenced the ages of gender
silence and violence that we are still dealing with. I continued this in Israel.
SO'D: My intention was to push 'material' with 'duration' as action, that's what I settled on
before I left Belfast. My research focuses on the visual in performance to study the coexistence of other women; it has and does also involve men as an other, my genderopposite. I amplify it and draw attention to this when I am in different geographical and
social positions. Nothing is ever purely visual. Performance provokes that. It is how I
The first performance in these situations is always the most difficult, you sort of move
through a doorway and then into the unknown. After Underbelly in the bus station, I was in
SO'D: I sat on a metal seat on a bench, in the arrival and departure area of the Central Bus
Centre, Tel Aviv. I worked for two and half hours. I repeatedly glued sheets of gold leaf to a
dress under which I held a large balloon creating an illusion of pregnancy. Gold leaf is a
gentle material, a slow material, a beautiful material. A little wind came in from the door of
the departure gate, where I was sitting. I could only see the top of the balloon inside my
dress, a grey lycra dress that I bought in a pound shop somewhere with a thought that I
might use it in some work because it looked industrial. I was more or less gold-leafing my
sculptural stomach blindly, I could not see how the leaf was going; I was getting used to its
unpredictable nature.
Norwegian Liquid 
Lofoten Islands 2010
Hijxs de la mano 
Mexico 2012
Sinéad O'Donnell: Underbelly, Material Memory series, part 5, 2008, Central Bus Station,
Tel Aviv, Israel; courtesy the artist
I thought about how some people saw the performance and some saw the gold leaf. I
wanted to make a monument, I wanted to make you, them, think more about this area of
the stomach , about the superficial way that art and life can be. As I leafed my sculptural
stomach, the baloon became not a baloon, but a place where I could put my past and my
future, flipping back and forward from emotions to actionist decisions. Always threatening
to burst. I did have a piece of paper in my knickers for the duration of this performance,
using the trace of my menstrual cycle, as a way of measuring the time in my body. The
seat was getting harder, the action was getting tougher, at one point there was a
threshold in the action. The soldiers standing and watching me... they were as alien to me
as I was to them. The glue I used was water-based and white, it looked like sperm
running down the sides of my gold leafed belly, I could not see this until I saw the
documentation. I then thought that the performance in a symbolic way without me ever
considering it, had male or masculine value.
I reached for the top of one of the glue bottles, it was a little blunt, eventually it pierced
the baloon, which crashed into my own stomach all wet and sticky. For me, it was
beautiful to feel the shape of the gold leaf that was so monumental become flattened and
pressed onto my body for the first time. Until then it existed in a distance from my body,
apart from my hands. I worked for two and half hours. Then I stopped.
Slavka Sverakova & Sinead O'Donnell
CIRCA Contemporary Art in Ireland 2008 - Editor Peter Fitzgerald
'As a painter, Vulva has
never accepted the
concept of “negative
Carolee Schneeman, Carolee Schneeman, Imaging Her Erotics;
Essays, Interviews, Projects
'The difference
between THING and
Carolee Schneeman, Imaging
Her Erotics; Essays,
Interviews, Projects
'A no-man's land betwixt and between'
Are there Universals of Performance in Myth, Ritual and Drama?
'Loved the power pussy had. The way men were drawn to its
mysteries, as if prospecting for gold in foreign territory. Sweet
evil flower, instrument of torture and ecstacy, Delicate blossom,
root of deception. Buried deep in its fleshy folds, so very many
ancient secrets, a magic which has confounded men since it was
banished from the Garden, full of voodoo who's magic turns men
into monsters.'
I Miss You
Photo: Ben Ponton 2010
Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary
involuted and undone, creating what Deleuze in Difference and Repetition calls a larval sexuality –
Becoming Vulva: Flesh, Fold, Infinity
metamorphosis, toward encountering the self which is sensed but not wholly perceived, toward the
immature and transformed at every synthesis, which acts not toward a thing but toward its
imperceptibility within repetition where all elements within syntheses are dissipated, disoriented and
reoriented with each turn, each folding and each alteration in the aspects of involution. Pleasure is
Patriarchal and psychoanalytic discourses have oriented the dissemination of privilege and power
folding with the planes of flesh. Beyond metaphor becoming-vulva enfleshes as fold every part of the
which facilitate the dominance of male subjects through not selection of these particular subjects but
flesh, every nerve every tissue mass, every artery, every organ, the unfolded skin as libidinally
through the systems which structure society and ideology. This abstract system defaults to valuing
provocative. In the event of thinking over knowing vulva is present but not present to itself, sensed but
certain ‘masculine’ qualities and forecloses the possibility of the recognition of true difference by
not perceived and known. Skin may be peeled, planes touched, parts intensified or moved around,
describing alterity only as different from. Gilles Deleuze and Fèlix Guattari see the male subject as the
corporeal minutia explored and every plane of the body reorganised into a new configuration with new
most in need of deconstruction in order to facilitate the mobilization of ethics. Luce Irigaray describes
function and meaning. Becoming-vulva makes skin-flesh of the world, not the self upon a becoming.
the masculine structuration of society as phallologocentric, where knowledge and power are oriented
around such qualities inherent in masculinity, such as singularity, solidity, visual total apprehension
Becoming-vulva is, put simply, entering into an alliance with the fold, flesh and force of the
and transcendental signification. Deleuze, Guattari and Irigaray have all offered alternatives –
indeterminacy of this desiring disorganising organ. It is difficult to conceptualise ‘a’ vulva in the same
Deleuze and Guattari call to the becoming-woman of dominant subjects, Irigaray describes the model
way as one can conceive of ‘a’ penis. One can however have vulvic male genitalia. The use of the word
of the two lips which exchanges the symbolic phallus for a feminine-genital model. In this article I will
‘cunt’ as opposed to ‘vulva’ comes as a response to ‘cunt’ being the limits of linguistic profanity in
offer another model which negotiates the traditional antagonism between these two theoretical
Western culture, where the actual signifier of non-specific female genitalia is exchanged for the
suggestions. Using Deleuze’s work on ‘the fold’, I will posit ‘becoming-vulva’. The vulva mediates the
signifier of a repulsive or offensive or, more resonant with its affinity with women, disorderly or
feminine-genital elements of Irigaray’s two lips with Deleuze’s structure of the fold as one of relations
disobedient subject, particularly male (essentially men most often call other men ‘cunts’, ‘pussies’ and
between disparate perspectives and elements. Becoming-vulva is available to all subjects while
‘girls’ when they fail to fulfil an expectation). The transference from philologically smooth vulva to the
resisting the vaguely essentializing fetishization of the term ‘woman’. As a metamorphic and volatile
hard consonants of cunt converts the speaking of the word itself from the open vowel teeth to tongue
structure becoming-vulva is necessarily experimental and thus this article will attempt to offer
to the guttural and teeth to teeth. Can we redeem cunt from its expropriation from female anatomy to
entrance points into other forms of becoming without demanding a prescriptive technique.
majoritarian insult? Cunt doesn’t really refer to any body part – while it insinuates genitals it isn’t
specific. Like the feminine it is vague, threatening, neither demarcated nor determines. The
Anatomically defined, the vulva is the visible external female genitalia. By external what is meant is
disobedience of the vulva is intimately related to the transgression of paradigms of the singular, the
all that isn’t within the pelvis, so the vaginal aperture is included. Divergent from psychoanalysis and
onomastic, the visual and the functional which the vulva performs. This paper uses the term ‘vulva’ as
classical sculpture, external female vulva is visible only through exploration. It is two sets of lips,
a navigation of the tensions between Deleuze and Guattari’s problematic term ‘woman’ with Irigaray’s
clitoris, vagina, anus, g-spot and apocryphal elements. It is spreading out and convergence of labia.
model of the two lips. I argue that Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the demonic and Deleuze’s work
It is the unity of the clitoris and its concealment of the urethra, a single organ as palimpsest. The
on Leibniz and the fold can create fruitful political relations with feminist issues and Irigaray,
vaginal ‘aperture’ is a volitional hole, both penetrable and ingurgitant. The general perinea, the
acknowledging the imperative becomings of all subjects, their histories and memories, creating a
indiscernibility between what constitutes the vulva (not the thigh, not the belly) and what constitutes
structure which is not a term which describes becomings to come but an abstract experimental terrain
the surrounds (not vulva) and the internal aspect of the vulva, which reflects the infinite potential
which is a configuration of all subjects, here and now.
found in the exploration of all internality (seen in such activities as speculum sex, fisting, and douche
and enema play among other things) offer an organ far removed materially and conceptually from the
Negotiating the pitfalls and problems in using the subject position woman I will argue that a vulvic
hypostasis of the phallus. Being as a body is a formalisation of flesh into smaller forms which have
paradigm can bypass these risks as it works directly (and only) with structure rather than any
function and signification: head as seat of logic, face as signifying plane of subjectivity, race, age,
phantasmatic notion of a particular kind of subject which has both been oppressed and denied
genitals as signifier of gender and possible sexuality and sexual configurations in relation with other
validation or self-authorisation of her own subjectivity. Just as phallologocentrism coalesce the
subjects. The vulva is informal both as a non-reified biological form and as a mode of expression.
dominance of the visible, the phantasy of transcendental truth incarnated in the solid, demarcated,
Becoming investigates and exploits the relations between forces of subjugation and seeks tactics to
objectifying, investigating and penetrating symbol of the phallus, so the vulva privileges fluidity,
reorient strata of desire – how does a vulva desire differently to a phallus or a vagina or clitoris within
connectivity, aspectual apprehension, tactility and the other senses.
phallic paradigms? Vulvas are materially formed of multiple folds of flesh. The body becoming-vulva is
By way of contextualising becoming-vulva I turn to the fruitful field created by relatively recent work
(2001: 6), verbing the vagina in an (admittedly vaguely phallic in the persistence of the ‘vaginal’
by feminists who have negotiated Deleuze (both with and without Guattari) and Irigaray. Irigaray
terminology) attempt toward female morphology as movement. Politically this would take becoming-
uses the configuration of the two lips to elucidate connections between language, self as manifold,
woman as always and urgently political in relation to relevance and immediate social issues. Grosz
flesh and inevitable but not object activated becomings.
points out this is where ‘multiplicities of (more or less) temporary alignments of segments’ (1994: 198)
and segments in becoming-vulva aspects of folds. ‘It is thus no longer appropriate to ask what a text
In order to touch himself, man needs an instrument; his hand, a woman’s body, language… and
means, what it says, what is the structure of its interiority, how to interpret or decipher it. One must
this self-caressing requires at least a minimum of activity. As for woman, she touches herself
ask what it does.’ (Grosz, 1994: 199) Perspective could thus address singularity issues which we are
without any need for mediation, and before there is any way to distinguish activity from
all already complicit with and resistant to at once, our folds of negotiation and position with issues. The
passivity. Woman “touches herself” all the time and moreover no-one can forbid her to do so,
‘woman’ of becoming-woman is no longer an instrument because t(he)y who enter becoming is as lost
for her genitals are formed of two lips in continuous contact. (Irigaray: 1985: 24)
on many fold-planes as volitional (without aim or destination) on others. Deleuze states ‘the world was
an infinity of converging series, capable of being extended into each other, around unique
Becoming-vulva, while taking its cue from Irigaray’s model of the two lips, concerns itself more with
points…singularity is inflection and curve.’ (2001: 60, 90) When Irigaray seeks to have ‘another look’
temporality in its focus on mobilisation and in reference to space, to perspectival apprehension. The
at psychoanalysis (1985: 34-67) she neither limits nor orients looking but invokes a look at a
vulva is made of the fold of two lips and with every move the relation and orientation alter. That is,
singularity from other points, points of others, which will be perspectival points and where the concept
where Irigaray critiques the compulsion to either-ing: either illuminated or invisible, he or she, you or
of the unique point is a matter of relevance of a particular singular structure apprehended from
me and one or two it is the interstitial aspects of the neither and beyond one or two that becoming-
multiple others. The gaze converges and negotiations form folds within gazes as with the unique
vulva exploits on the way to pure immanent one-ness, and Deleuze’s input comes from extensive
singularity they contemplate. Olkowski states ‘each perception is a complex multiplicity that includes
relation. Deleuze’s fold extends and proliferates the potential futures of the lips. In addition to the
not only the object perceived but the expanded circuits , the deeper and more distant regions of
lips’ structure as creating a morphological pleasure in and for the self, the fold ‘is inseparable in itself
memory.’ (1999: 114) Perhaps put very simply becoming-vulva is the convergence-action-potential
from the power to affect other forces (spontaneity) and to be affected by others (receptivity’.
aspect which navigates movement and demand from the two-lips. An issue, for example, which
(Deleuze, 1999: 101) It is compelling at this stage to refer the reader to Deleuze’s pictorial sketch of
concerns ‘real life’ women, could be a unique singularity and each subject inflects with that singularity
Foucault’s foldings and inside of thought (1999: 120). The similarity between this image and the
along divergent planes, not visible to each other, nor to themselves as a unified subject. Women, after
undifferentiated vulva is astonishing. This diagram is made of four elements which could be oriented
Deleuze, are not ‘things’ but continuity. Planes affect and synthesise with each other based on
to feminist theory. Line of the outside refers to the vulva’s affectuation of and by other elements.
inflective folding and refolding.
Citing Blanchot and resonant with Irigaray Deleuze states this zone has become ‘intimacy and
intrusion’ (1999: 120. Strategic zone refers to the powers of thought as creation over knowledge as
pre-formed constitution masquerading as reflection, (always by the structure that allows it to
emerge). Deleuze states these are fictions but no less capable of affectuation shifts in the folds. More
satisfying than exchanging the masculine for the feminine or aspiration to equality (which allows only
sameness) strategy encourages specific and singular aims for feminine liberation without
essentializing woman. Strata in the fold is fold structure without hierarchy or the geo-atrophy
constituted by history. The fold is the zone of subjectivation, being as the experiment in thought. It is
also the point in the diagram which most resembles the vaginal aperture, and, perhaps
sympathetically, Deleuze’s naming of the hole as voluminous manifold multiplicity shows that even
the most traditional parts of female genitalia can – indeed must – be the very sites of reconfiguration.
Beyond, (but not better than) Irigaray’s two lips, this aperture attacks the very site of paradigmatic
oppression. There is no preferred site of liberation, this diagram is the vulva as all at once and not
limited by an enclosing line around it limiting it to one form. Of course Deleuze does not associate his
diagram with female genitalia, but I find the incidental collision of the two structures enticing.
While many feminists working with Deleuze and French feminists point to the thousand tiny sexes of
Deleuze’s thought, becoming-vulva attempts to extend Deleuze’s idea of ‘invagination as a pleating’
Becoming-vulva interrogates phallologocentrism as a structure beyond identity with which all subjects
participate. This has a twofold effect – it recognises that participation rather than position in the
structure is where reification and revolution is enacted and it shows the imperative availability of
feminist structures for male subjects, thus revolt comes from all directions, not simply from those
which are directly served by shifts in the structure. Unlike becoming-woman a vulva is a series of
connexions between the various elements of female genitalia. Massumi (1994) emphasises the risk
Deleuze and Guattari take as disregarding real lived conditions. Braidotti (1991), and Goulimari 1(999)
urge a shift from becoming any ‘thing’, because of the problems in Deleuze and Guattari’s use of
‘woman’ to becoming-minoritarian which would catalyse all subjects based on context-historical and
specific powers and risks of each unique project of becoming. Jardine (1986) isolates the focus on
women as a result of their being in ‘limbo’, neither recognised as subjects nor allowed ownership of the
fluidity and other transgressive elements inherent within their minoritarianism. The place of woman is
in-between, the state is void, and the unfolding of this void from atrophied fetish – even if it is a poststructural fetish – to mobilised unfurling into infinity (creating the possibility of infinity by its movement
within a space and through time).
Becoming Vulva first appeared in New Formations 68: Autumn 2009 Continued on Page 34
Photo: Jimmy Fay
A Celtic mythological story tells of an
army, losing battle, sending out their
womenfolk with raised skirts to
frighten away the enemy.
‘The undecideability of
the limits
of the female body’
Volatile Bodies; Towards a Corporeal Feminism
'Vaginas are pluralistic,
individualistic, and have
wills and intentions of
their own'
Vagina: A New Biography
Splat! 
Photos: Jon Cartwright
 Performance material for
durational performance at 'THE
E-Zine launch:
Ugly Girl 1943
'Female morphology as movement’
Becoming Vulva: Flesh, Fold, Infinity
'The vagina and the eye are the only two self-cleaning
organs on the human body.'
Mairéad Farrell on Dirty Protest. As well
as excrement the women smeared their
menstrual blood on the walls.
'The faeces and blood
character[ized] the protest as
primordial symbols. These
symbols are invested with
political power... Like speech
acts, they have a performative
'The Armagh Dirty Protest is
reminiscent of the kind of
symbolic warfare enacted by
women in Africa. Ardener
and Ifeka-Moller have
documented women's
exposure of genitals as a
powerful sexual insult used
against men violating their
dignity and rights. This
display publicly states
disrespect, denial of
dominance and nonrecognition of authority.'
'While [women's] political identity as members of the IRA entailed at one level a cultural desexualization, and
the Dirty Protest a personal defeminisation, at a deeper level the exposure of menstrual blood subverted this
process by radically transforming the asexual bodies of "girls" into the sexualized bodies of women. In so
doing, the menstrual blood became a symbol through which gender identity was reflected upon, bringing to
the surface what had been otherwise erased.'
'The menstrual blood stood as a symbol of that reality
excluded from language. In doing so it acted as a catalyst
of cultural change, a vehicle of reflection and discussion
about the meanings of gender difference in Northern
Ireland... The articulation of the symbol of menstrual blood
with ongoing political and feminist discourses forced a
Dirty Protest: Symbolic
among Nationalists and feminists alike on the
Overdetermination &
Gender in Northern
exclusionary politics of the very categories of feminism and
Ireland Ethnic Violence
nationalism, which had a social effect.'
Norwegian Liquid Belfast 2010
120 KG 1998
'The earliest artefacts
of human prehistory
featured vaginas'
Vagina: A New Biography
'I thought of the vagina in many ways – physically,
conceptually: as a sculptural form, an architectural
referent, the sources of sacred knowledge, ecstasy, birth
passage, transformation. I saw the vagina as a
translucent chamber of which the serpent was an
outward model: enlivened by its passage from the visible
to the invisible, a spiralled coil ringed with the shape of
desire and generative mysteries, attributes of both
female and male sexual power.'
Carolee Schneeman, More Than Meat Joy; Performance Works and Selected Writings
'An endless, evolutionary slipping
and sliding, hard against soft, form
against matter, consciousness
against unconsciousness, idea let
loose in chaos…'
Vagina Diologues
Contra Menstruaciones 
Mexico 2010
'It is a space in flow, a
form permanently in
Vagina Diologues
'The position of the in-between lacks a
fundamental identity, lacks a form, a givenness, a
nature. Yet it is that which facilitates, allows into
being, all identities, all matter, all substance. It is
itself a strange becoming'
Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and
Real Space
'The secret, interior space of the
vagina is a place where things happen – a
zone where matter moves in two directions,
creating ripples of events on multiple levels
that may be both microcosmic and
macroscopic in their scale. This hidden
place is a passage and a chamber, a zone of
friction and sensation, and a starting point
for several kinds of journey, one of which
ends in a life.'
Vagina Diologues
'The space of the in-between is that which is not a space, a
space without boundaries of its own, which takes on and
receives itself, its form, from the outside, which is
not its outside (this would imply that it has a form) but
whose form is the outside of the identity, not just of an
other (for that would reduce the in-between to the role of
object, not of space) but of others, whose relations of
positivity define, by default, the space that is constituted as
Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space
My vagina is bait for my hunt
For the last twenty years I have been active in the actual art
circuit. In 1992 I started my performance art career by
reading my own porno/erotic texts, concentrating on
criticizing the repression of /in women, from then on I find
new mediums to devote myself to transgress limits, dig into
human behaviour and disrupt the accepted reality.
I’m a voracious hunter of human reactions; consumer and
provocateur. Human beings want to feel. I make them feel
deeply. I intend to show you the horrors within societies
hidden lies.
My field can be found in any space: the street, public places,
wherever there are people, preferably with no references of
me. I practice a constant situationism, disrupting daily
routine. When facing the inability of thinking how to react, the
most authentic truth is revealed. I take on sex topics because
the world still shivers to them. I willingly break the
conventional woman’s behaviour by empowering my sexuality.
I was born a seductive Nabokovkian “Lolita”. My vagina is
good bait for my hunt.
My aesthetic is grotesque, in search of severity. I have lived
censorship, scolding, fear and guilt, typical in a repressive
society, so I started a kind of situationist anthropology
throughout the world, searching for reactions of people
onslaught by my vagina, therefore I have verified sex is STILL
a universal Achilles’ heel.
Rocio Boliver aka “La Congelada de Uva,” Mexican sex radical,
writer, activist and media personality.
Sex magic is particularly useful to address sexual blocks, teaching erotic self knowledge,
physical healing, emotional healing, stress and tension, low self esteem, learning to cherish the
self, bringing lovers closer together, and generally affecting positive change. Sex Magic can
however be used to achieve any desired outcome.
STEP 1 - Identify your chosen site it should be safe, comfortable and secure.
STEP 2 - Gather and arrange sufficient bedding, drinking water, comfortable warm clothes,
incense, candles, music and objects that will help you to action the process in the chosen place.
STEP 3 - Visualise a protective circle of light encapsulating the space you are working in,
extend the light 360 beneath and above you. Casting a circle is a necessary safety precaution
to contain the energy you raise and to keep out uninvited others.
STEP 4 - Read the praise of the Goddess. Understand that you are welcoming her in, and that
you are going to work with her.
Praise the goddess, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let one revere the mistress of the peoples, the greatest of
the Igigi.
Praise Ishtar, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let us revere the queen of women, the greatest of the Igigi.
She is their queen; they continually cause her commands
to be executed.
All of them bow down to her.
They receive her light before her.
Women and men indeed revere her.
She is clothed in pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.
Ishtar is clothed in pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.
In their assembly her word is powerful; it is dominating.
Before Anum their king she fully supports them.
She rests in intelligence, cleverness, (and) wisdom.
They take counsel together, she and her lord.
In lips she is sweet; life is in her mouth.
At her appearance rejoicing becomes full.
She is glorious; veils are thrown over her head.
Her figure is beautiful; her eyes are brilliant.
Indeed they occupy the throne room together.
In the divine chamber, the dwelling of joy,
Before them the gods take their places.
To their utterances their attention is turned.
The goddess - with her there is counsel.
The fate of everything she holds in her hand.
At her glance there is created joy,
Power, magnificence, the protecting deity and guardian
She dwells in, she pays heed to compassion and
Besides, agreeableness she truly possesses.
Be it slave, unattached girl, or mother, she preserves (her).
One calls on her; among women one names her name.
The king their favourite, beloved of their hearts,
Magnificently offers to them his pure sacrifices.
Ammiditana, as the pure offering of his hands,
Brings before them fat oxen and gazelles.
Who - to her greatness who can be equal?
Strong, exalted, splendid are her decrees.
Ishtar - to her greatness who can be equal?
Strong, exalted, splendid are her decrees.
By her orders she has subjected to him
The four world regions at his feet;
And the total of all peoples
She has decided to attach them to his yoke.
She is sought after among the gods; extraordinary is her
Respected is her word; it is supreme over them.
Ishtar among the gods, extraordinary is her station.
Respected is her word; it is supreme over them.
Akkadian hymn to Ishtar, translated by Ferris J. Stephens:
Man, Myth and Magic. Vol.13.) It was written in the latter
part of the First Dynasty of Babylon, approximately 1600
From Anum, her consort, she has been pleased to ask for
An enduring, a long life.
Many years of living, to Ammiditana
She has granted, Ishtar has decided to give.
STEP 5 - Pleasure yourself, it may take some time to relax and to begin to enjoy
yourself and approach orgasm.
STEP 6 - At the point of orgasm focus and release the energy for your chosen
purpose. You may repeat this action. Be aware that you may become disorientated
after prolonged activity and experience numbness, tingling, and spasming. This is
normal and is temporary.
STEP 7 - Conclude the activity by ceasing to pleasure yourself and by taking time
to come back to a neutral state. This may take some time.
STEP 8 - Give thanks to the Goddess and close the circle by visualising its opening.
Slowly clear the site allowing time for disorientation, re-hydration and fatigue.
After following the steps you will arrive at a new relationship to yourself and the
o You will know that it is out of passion that faith is born.
o When you surrender to your passion for happiness, for fulfilment, for truth,
you will automatically connect to the source of life inside yourself.
o You will feel infused with strength, with purpose, with something far
greater than what you previously experienced as your self.
o You will realize that faith has nothing to do with hope - it is a confidence,
a knowingness that Universal Intelligence is working through you, as you.
PU$$Y Lyrics
Iggy iggy pussy illy
Wetter than the amazon
Taste this kitty
Silly billy poppin pillys
Smoke it like a swisher
... lick this philly
Mold em ah' soak em ah'
Hook em like crack
After shock
Molten ah' lava drop
This should be outlawed. call me pac
The illest on the planet
Better play ya cards right mr gambit
If you wanna hang here
Aint no hammock
Never, not better - law should ban it
Never, no better - law should ban it
I do it right, wit d.r.u.g.s understand it
I do it right, now please sir pan it
Left right back to the middle
Head on swivel neck till I quivel
Open ya mouth...
Taste the rainbow taste my skittles ah!
From The anatomy of the human gravid uterus
exhibited in figures
 'A Sadhu dressed like Goddess Kali
during the three-day-long festival
celebrated to mark the menstruation
period of the goddess'
Masturbadora 
Mexico 2010
 'The Menstruating Goddess' on the
exterior wall of the Kamakhya temple in
You know bitches envy me
Cause you can't get rid of me
When you cum. I run.
This cats got you mission me
Bad boys get a mouth fulla pussy
Aka listerne
Here to make you lose your mind
Gonna need sherlock holmes
To solve your mystery
I'm nastttyyy
Baby what you thinking?
Aka titanic
So much wet will have yo ass sinking
Treat that tongue like a bullet
Give me head abe lincon
This is so out this world
But no you not dreamin'
inside-out: speculating on the interior
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Abstract: In this paper, I have speculated on the interior as a site and an idea of betweeness.
Feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray (Irigaray 1999) has associated the concept of interior with
dualist and gendered philosophies. Nevertheless, the interior as a site has offered many
opportunities for artists and occupants to challenge how we inhabit and change architecture.
In this paper, I will focus on a design project that involves experimental making and living
as part of a subversive approach to architecture: suggesting that we might re-conceptualise
‘interior’ as the space of betweeness rather than the space of the contained. This paper, part
of my ongoing doctoral research, has extended ideas about the interior that I explored in the
2003 IDEA journal and has reflected my personal experience of collaborative, experimental
design practices. The purpose of my research is to explore the betweeness of spatial practice.
Keywords: interior, architecture, betweeness
interior as a philosophical idea
Firstly, I will establish a conceptual framework for the idea of interior, which I will later use to
critique my personal experience of design practice in interior sites. I have drawn from writings
about space by two feminist philosophers, Luce Irigaray and Elizabeth Grosz. Both authors
have associated interior space with being oppressed in dualist, gendered philosophy: both
have sought alternative ways to think about space differently. For this reason, I believe their
ideas are provocative for thinking about interior space and practice, focusing in particular on
alternative approaches to the making of physical interior environments.
According to Irigaray’s (1999) feminist critique of space, in the philosophical writings
of Martin Heidegger (1975) the interior has been reduced to a space associated with
containment. In Heidegger’s writings, the concept of interior relies on a clear division
between inside and outside, to the extent that the interior is a conceptual space that contains
in an oppressive, negative way (Irigaray, 1999, pp. 95–96). Irigaray believes Heidegger
reduced space to a singular construct by relating all of our interrelations with space and
architecture to the overarching concept of Being. Heidegger has therefore constructed
a ‘world’ that encloses and suppresses other kinds of thinking within his philosophy: ‘by
organizing the parts of space into a single totality…man obtains an ‘interiority’ (Irigaray,
1999, p. 95). Consequently, Heidegger’s descriptions of architecture embody patriarchal
and dualist thinking: the interior created by ‘his’ architectural envelope is an oppressive and
exclusive space (Irigaray 1999, p. 95). In other words, the interior is inferior and limited by
the architectural form that contains it. The only way to overcome this conceptual interiority
is, for Irigaray, to redefine space through its interrelationship with time, birth and movement
(Grosz, 2001, p. 157). The space created by the womb is, for Irigaray, the original space of
the ‘maternal-feminine body’ (Grosz 2000, p. 263 ): a space associated with the gift of life,
the passage of birth and a sharing of life between male and female (Grosz, 2001, p. 159).
Grosz (2001) describes Irigaray’s interest in the interval or between as a way of
acknowledging the difference denied in patriarchal thinking: the between refers to ‘...the
movement or passage from one existence to another’ (Grosz, 2001, p. 157). The blurring
of interior and exterior, for example, equally acknowledges both qualities while allowing
for the sharing or merging reflected in the processes of birth. Grosz (2001) speculates on
the implications of this thinking for architects and architecture, suggesting we might think
beyond functional and fixed notions of space, to make:
…architecture as envelope, which permits the passage from one space and position to
another, rather than the containment of objects and functions in which each thing finds
its rightful place. Building would not function as finished object but rather as spatial
process, open to whatever use it may be put to in an indeterminate future, not as a
container of solids but as a facilitator of flows: ‘volume without contour’, as Irigaray
describes it in Speculum (Grosz, 2001, p. 165).
interior as a physical site
I believe Grosz’s and Irigaray’s thinking is provocative for the discipline of interior design,
as it has highlighted how interior space is contained and constrained by the architectural
envelope in philosophical writing. Grosz and Irigaray have also described how we can think
of architecture as more than a space that contains – and, consequently, how interiors and
interior objects can be more than that which is ‘contained’ by architecture. Grosz’ has also
speculated on how this shift in thinking might affect architectural practice, suggesting that
buildings might be less restrictive in terms of how they can be occupied. I have explored
how designing might be enmeshed with building and occupying space in my doctoral
research, and have used Grosz’s and Irigaray’s thinking to critique and re-conceptualise
practice as a blurring of these activities. In this paper, I have focused on the alteration of an
existing residence, Avebury St, which I have worked on for many years. Using Grosz’s and
Irigaray’s thinking about interior space and containment, I have been able to reconceptualise
the manipulation of spaces and objects inside a building as betweeness and blurring. The
Avebury St project has reflected a blurring of both interior and exterior physical space
and the processes of designing, making and occupying space. As a consequence, the
architectural envelope has been physically and conceptually eroded through our experimental,
collaborative designing of this project. Designing from the inside-out has provided my
collaborators and I with an opportunity for practice denied in the restrictive, dualist practice
of professional architecture. My family and I have extended the making of our personal
home into a practice based in a broader social ritual and experimental construction, and as
such, I believe the interior has become a space that interconnects rather than contains. Many
artists have used the interior as a project site in which to question notions of containment
and boundary: artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark (Diserens, 1993, p. 35; Ran-Moseley,
1995, p. 81), Andrea Zittell (Bartolucci, 2003, pp. 14–15) and Allan Wexler (Shulz, 1998, p.
46) have created experimental spaces and interior installations that reflect a questioning of
how we inhabit space. Rather than being a site of containment, the interior has provided a
site in which these artists might question the conceptual boundaries of building envelopes
and spatial occupation. The Avebury St project has extended this approach into an everyday,
family and collaborative, rather than artistic, context.
Avebury St has involved the alteration of an existing, termite-eaten, one-bedroom house at
West End. Unlike conventional architectural projects, my partner and I have lived in the site as
part of the design and building process. As we do not have the budget to extend the building
shell, we have focused on the interior and the materials and surfaces of the architectural
envelope. My partner and I have struggled to accommodate myself and my family within a
dilapidated and inadequate building structure, re-working existing and salvaged materials.
Aided by my partner’s cabinetmaking and building skills, we have developed an approach
to the building that resembles the experimental making of Do-It-Yourself projects and
installation art rather than professional design practice. In conventional architectural and
design practice, I developed a design concept for the client: I produced drawings of the
proposal that represented the qualities of the design and which could be used for building
approval and costing; I then arranged for a builder to construct the design on behalf of the
client. In professional practice, each activity of designing, building and occupation is normally
performed by separate entities and as distinct stages. The architect or interior designer is
also regarded as the design ‘author’, such that the builder and building occupant become
peripheral to the design process. This has resulted in Western architectural practice reflecting
a segregated approach to society and building (Willis, 1999, pp. 206–209). At Avebury
St, we have taken a more experimental approach, exploring space through simultaneous
building and inhabitation, thus ‘developing the concept from the making’ (Guedes, 2004)
rather than through drawing. We have valued the physical and conceptual contributions of
friends, colleagues and visitors as an essential aspect of the experimental making and living,
and, most importantly, the design process. Projects such as Avebury St can help us ‘rethink’
the interior as a blurring of physical and conceptual boundaries of space: Irigaray’s ‘volume
without contour’ (Grosz, 2001, p. 165).
a provisional life: the ephemeral nature of interiors
In the following sections, I have highlighted four important issues of making the Avebury St
interior that contribute to its conceptual betweeness. The first issue relates to the provisional
nature of designing. We have treated our alterations at Avebury St as built propositions about
how we might live in space. These propositions in turn generate subsequent questions which
we investigate through altering our environments. This reflects the idea that building is a
process of becoming, rather than producing a finite, finished object: acknowledging that life
is provisional and experimental to some degree (Brand, 1994, p. 23; Willis, 1999, p. 114).
We have treated spaces, their uses and the objects in them as ephemeral installations: for
example, a walk-in wardrobe has been transformed into several different uses including study,
bedroom, dining room, play space, and a library / office. Termite-eaten walls were removed,
and then replaced with walls made of shelves. We reinvent the space, and it reinvents how
we live through simultaneous designing, making and occupation.
architectural envelope as interior objects
Interior objects and decorations are often seen as unnecessary and inferior to the quality
of space and function defined by architecture (Miles, 2000, p. 80). Objects exist in space:
architecture makes space. By re-appropriating standard interior objects and materials
as architectural elements, we have challenged the boundaries of what constitutes the
architectural envelope and its internal and external limits. For example, objects that once sat
inside space (IKEA bookshelves, timber bath mats) have become interior walls and external
security screens. By using objects in different ways, Rendell (1998) believes that we can reimagine
how the world defines us, and therefore the construct of what is outside (world) and
what is inside (us) (p. 245). Objects and spaces are no longer associated with the singular
functions they were originally allocated – cupboards might be for storage, define rooms
inside the building, and frame views of the landscape outside the building. I believe when
interior objects can become and define the quality of spatial enclosure, the interior is no
longer bounded by the structure of architecture.
material re-invention
Similarly, working with found and recycled materials on site helps architects and designers
to be connected with the social and material conditions of architecture (Willis, 1999, p.
115): materials become part of the ‘story’ and the continuity of a place. In professional
practice in Western societies, architects and designers develop concepts away from the
site and construction using drawings and abstract ideas about materials (Robbins, 1994;
Willis, 1999). At Avebury St, designing and materials were blurred, because designs were
tested at full-scale on site using the materials salvaged from local construction site bins and
demolition shops. We used drawing as an active part of our making on site, rather than the
abstract representation of ideas. Materials were also salvaged from the existing building.
We demolished non-structural timber walls and lining to open up interior spaces: later
transforming the material into timber battens forming internal and external screen walls.
undoing edges: surface as a blurring between interior and exterior
Recognising that ‘a border has thickness and edges’ (Hill, 1998, p. 150), we have treated the
architectural envelope as a space that contributes to both the internal and external building
quality. We replaced solid external wall cladding with layers of translucent, transparent and
‘broken’ materials like polycarbonate sheeting and recycled timber boards. We also re-made
existing window and door openings with new joinery, awnings and vertical screens. Both
strategies have created new transitional zones that physically and visually blur interior and
exterior space while working with the existing architectural volume. By removing existing,
non-structural walls, we have also enabled all internal rooms and spaces to have views
through each other, and through the new thresholds, to soft or green landscapes. The
existing house was once defined by solid materials and small internal spaces, so that we were
contained by the building fabric. By re-constructing the interior and its edge materials, the
interior has become a space of conceptual and physical blurring with the external landscape.
redefining making as betweeness
For social theorist Tanya Titchkosky (1996), betweeness refers to a state of blurring, a
transitional condition involving people coming to terms with their place in the world. We
could also describe the process of designing at Avebury St as betweeness. In professional
practice, professionals ‘design’ and builders ‘make’. At Avebury St, we have extended
the concept of making to embrace everyday social activities inside the house as well as
conventional construction work. Making has therefore included: conceptual and physical
contributions by friends, neighbours and visitors; repairing termite-eaten structure; building
of furniture installations, screens and stairs; and painting and decorating. According to local
building regulations, this work may be interpreted as building maintenance rather than new
building work. We may not often consider maintaining building materials, furniture and
interiors as design or art practice (Morgan, 1998, p. 114), yet I believe this collaborative
design-and-making reflects the potential for practice to be simultaneously driven by the
social, ethical and experimental aspects of architecture. Our friends and colleagues have
valued the opportunity to participate in the project (Brisbin & Tocker, 2003; McMahon, 2003):
revealing the potential of an ‘above-subsistence sociality’ (Grosz 2001, p. 165) beyond the
functional mandates of commercial architectural practice. Avebury St has recently become a
more ‘public’ space through two changes in circumstances: the expansion of the household
to accommodate our child, and mother/mother in-law: and the participation in the Not for
Sale public art project, selected to be part of the Art and Arch Infinite exhibition in September
– October 2004. This art project involved other artists and extended from our negative
experiences of real estate in West End: our proposal involved the installation of re-coded
real estate signs in front of the properties of project participants around the suburb. Our
group did not proceed with the installation due to the onerous public liability placed on the
participants. Nevertheless, the proposal has helped our project become part of a broader
social practice of people, materials, places and place-making politics.
summary: interior as betweeness
What are the implications of experimental projects like Avebury St for architecture and
design? These projects demonstrate that by challenging the conceptual, qualitative and
physical boundaries associated with architectural envelopes, we can redefine the concept
of interior from being contained to betweeness. This redefinition highlights a number of
issues for design practice. Firstly, our approach shows how space can be made to reflect the
provisional, ephemeral and experimental nature of life. The participants and I have been able
to design in collaborative, experimental ways denied in commercially-orientated professional
practice, segregated from the processes of making and building occupation. Small, interiorscaled
objects and cladding materials have provided opportunities for experimental building
without the safety issues associated with alterations to building structure. Furthermore,
interior elements, cladding materials and non-structural installations have enabled us to
reconnect the interior to external landscape, such that interior is neither secondary to nor
limited by the existing architectural form. We should think of the interior as more than an
empty fitout space, a container to be filled by our ‘interior design’, as this implies that the
interior is defined by and secondary to architecture. Instead, we might think of interior as a
site of possibilities for making, occupying and most importantly, generating architecture from
the inside-out.
In my professional practice experience, interior designing was seen as an activity that either
happened within, or in opposition to, the framework established by architectural structure
and master planning. However, this study has shown that interior space can be re-made
and re-imagined beyond the conceptual categories of interior / exterior space, structure,
decoration and fitout. Daniel Willis (1999) has stated that activities that are different to
professional practice, such as experimental building, help to rekindle the imaginative,
material and social dimensions of architecture so easily lost within the complexities of the
commercial world (p. 203). Avebury St is an example of one such practice. As an educator,
I believe design students need opportunities for designing through experimental making, to
show how architecture can be made as more than a discrete form or container, and how the
interconnections of people, materials and sites can generate space. These approaches require
a significant investment of time and resources. An excessive degree of change in both life and
space can be emotionally and physically demanding on the physical occupants, as highlighted
by the project participants: at Avebury St, my family and I have struggled with limited
finances, internal space, materials, time and labour. Nevertheless, if we had approached
the project in a conventional architectural manner by extending and altering the existing
building volume according to a preconceived plan, we would have limited our people-space
interactions to the dictates of the architectural form - thus becoming ‘contained’ by the
architecture. Projects like Avebury St provide opportunities for designers and architects that
are unlike conventional practice, and thus disclose the social and conceptual betweeness of
architecture: in these projects, the interior provides the medium through which we reveal the
social, collaborative and ephemeral aspects of space that are repressed in conventional design
inside-out: speculating on the interior
'The Sheela-na-gig 'embodies a
Bartolucci, M. (2003). Living Large in Small Spaces. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
between, threshold space and
Brand, S. (1994). How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built. New York: Penguin
refuses to be categorised.
Books Ltd.
She contains the energy of things
Brisbin, C. & Tocker, K. (2003). Interview about Avebury St with Cathy Smith. Brisbane.
Diserens, C. (1993). Gordon Matta-Clark. Art and Design Profile, 30, 34–41.
coming together’
Grosz, E. (2000). Architectures of Excess. Anymore. C. C. Davidson. New York: Anyone
Corporation, 9, 260–266.
Grosz, E. (2001). Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space. Cambridge:
The MIT Press.
Sila na Geige; Sheela-na-Gig & Sacred Space
Guedes, D. (2004). Personal conversation about the Avebury St project with Cathy Smith.
Heidegger, M. (1975). Hofstadter, A. (Trans.). Building dwelling thinking. Poetry, Language,
Thought. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 143–161.
Hill, J. (1998). An other architect. In Hill, J. (Ed.). Occupying Architecture. London: Routledge,
Irigaray, L. (1999). Mader, M. B. (Trans.). The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger. Austin:
University of Texas Press.
McMahon, W. (2003). Interview about Avebury St. with Cathy Smith. Brisbane.
Miles, M. (2000). The Uses of Decoration: Essays in the Architectural Everyday. Chichester:
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Morgan, R. C. (1998). The End of the Art World. New York: Allworth Press.
Ran-Moseley, F. (1995). Pre-Occupations and Occupations of Space; Towards a Definition
of Installation Art. Graduate Division of Queens College of New York, Master of Arts in Art
History. New York: The City University of New York.
Rendell, J. (1998). doing it, (un)doing it, (over)doing it yourself. In Hill, J. (Ed.). Occupying
Architecture. London: Routledge, 229–246.
Robbins, E. (1994). Why Architects Draw. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Shulz, B. (Ed.). (1998). Allan Wexler. GG Portfolio. Barcelona: GG Portfolio.
Titchkosky, T. L. (1996). The Primacy of Between-ness: A Hermeneutics of Marginality and Art.
Graduate Programme in Sociology, Doctor of Philosophy. North York: York University.
Willis, D. (1999). The Emerald City And Other Essays on the Architectural Imagination. New
York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Figure 7: Edges, materials, protrusions, 2004.
(Photography: Matthew Dixon
Cathy Smith, First Published in IDEA Journal, Australia 2004
'Figures express a very
common practice
rubbing the sacred
centre of ancient
feminine power itself,
the vulva, and it is
probable that all
Sheelas, or those within
reach of pilgrims that is,
would have been
touched or rubbed in this
way. The power of the
actual dust form the
figure was held to
have special healing
'There is something more to their symbology than just reproductivity.
The majority are shown either holding, touching or pulling apart the vagina,
accentuating focus on this part of the anatomy and when we look at what they are
pointing to we are surprized to see that the sexual organs are often shown in rather
startling detail. Sheela-na-Gigs are essentially symbolic representations, stylistic
rather than representational, but researchers have often commented on this careful
portrayal of the part of the genital anatomy not directly involved in reproduction at
all, such as the clitoris and the structure of the labia,
in some even the anus."
Kilpeck, Herefordshire 
Kilsarkan, Co. Kerry 
Becoming Vulva: Flesh, Fold, Infinity’
Feather Red
Tactile Bosh, 2010
'Vulva strips naked,
fills her mouth and
cunt with
Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment
and Sexual Difference in
Contemporary Feminist Theory
Carolee Schneeman, Imaging Her Erotics;
Essays, Interviews, Projects
'I’m not sure science has the tools yet to
understand the energy potential of this
doorway within and how women have yet to
embody it in a collective way.'
How Emotions Get Stored in the Vagina - A Responce to
Naomi Wolf from Tami Kent
'I’ve been shocked by the level of disconnect to the vagina and
womb and lack of truly embodying the capacity of this creative
space. It led me on my own search and my desire to put words
around how to come back to this center... Every one of us
needs to make the journey to discover the biography we are
carrying and choose what we intend to carry forward.'
How Emotions Get Stored in the Vagina - A Responce to
Naomi Wolf from Tami Kent
 Contra Concepcion
Mexico 2010
 Nest Bruno Glint, London 2012
Photos by:
‘Not fluidity without boundaries but acute
awareness of the non-fixity of boundaries’
Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory
Performance in response to 'The Eye' by George Bataille
Audience enters space
Begin reading text (thin tissue paper with text on wasps nest building, mating and larvae maintaining
Break eggs on back of neck - eggs run down neck/arms/hair, fall between legs onto text
Continue reading what can be seen of text
Pour, sugar, margarine, and other remaining cake ingredients on back of neck - build up on body and
between legs obliterating the text
Continue reading text until no longer possible
Tip gold leaf over back of neck - sticks to ingredients on body/hair and falls between legs
Light candles - plant into mess and text debris between legs in a '0' shape
Stand, put wine glass between legs
Pour red wine over hair - move body so wine channelled into glass between legs
Move legs apart - full glass falls to the floor
Remaining with legs apart, take penny out of vagina and drop onto pile of ingredients on the floor
Leave space
Which voice can I use today? There are many. They rush in polyvocity and velocity to
glosserating heterophony. Let’s talk about my ‘angel in the house’ who died some time
ago. Woolf described her, she was ‘intensely sympathetic…. she was utterly unselfish. She
excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken,
she took the leg, if there was a draught she sat in it – in short she was so constituted that
she never had a mind or wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the
minds and wishes of others……’ (Woolf in On Women and Writing, 1979, ed Michele Barrett)
Woman is neither closed nor open, indefinite, unfinished, infinite, form is never
complete in her. The incompleteness of her form, her morphology, allows her to
become something else at any moment.
Who am I?
I am plenary/multiple/counting and translating this tiny grey braille, I read the
stretching and contorting , like elastic contracted back now. I am writing my body as it
has been written upon, as it has been written on for me.
I am the belly, caught up in faster and faster, whirling’s, swirlings until matter shatters
and falls to dust….
Oh THAT me. That not very autonomous, ME, still makes an appearance, just for the sake
of peace and quiet but the real problem still, is for women to tell the ‘truth about a body’.
The stories of my intimate female parts become those of others….My four grown children
are long departed, but my body is still scarred from those sudden and not-so-sudden exits.
Very sudden in my daughter’s case as she ricocheted and ripped from with such force, that
the bed became an operating table and without anaesthetic my other lips were sewn back
together as my other lips moved in agony to pain more intense than the birth itself. POSTPARTUM: the aftermath is as intense as the mending, and bringing back together than the
PARTUM itself which is rewarded by the sensation of the head moving through you,
crowning, and glorious release.
I am the breast from which the babies held on with all tenacity to feed and live, whilst I
hold on with all tenacity to let them, clenching teeth and resolve, not to give in .
Like childbirth, writing, is the moment of letting go, then post-haste, post-event, revisiting, reading, correcting and fixing the things you said. Utterance, enunciation, fine, but
painful as you consider your audience and the meaning that you intend that moment to
have, knowing meaning is never healed. Texts remain, create dialogues, fugues,
interruptions – they become many things. It is a moment of becoming always.
So I am plenary/multiple/counting and translating this tiny grey braille, I read the
stretching and contorting , like elastic contracted back now. I am writing my body as it
has been written upon, as it has been written on for me.
WEARING THE TROUSERS MAKES THE BABY COME: a phrase used to describe how
to make the baby come out in childbirth, sometimes trousers were actually placed
on the woman in childbirth to draw the baby out .
What you see is containment. My body is encased. Encased by expectation, supposition,
histories, stories, myths, fallacies. The skin is the blank canvas onto which these things are
written. These things are projected.
The text I weave is woven with the tension of the body lived and the body inscribed – what
you have inscribed, what you have read.
Can you read these veins? Here the skin is not thick enough to hide the words. It is pushed
aside, by blood that rushes, gasps, providing oxygen for two not one. It speaks of the
weight of the womb bearing down on leaden legs that stumbled on, padded on, quietly, up
and down, waiting for the day to break, waiting for the child to finally be silent, waiting for
Dragging this body to their command, to be vertical when every sinew and cell revolts. I
hear their cries now. My ears, conicle constructs, still keening to check every child’s cry. A
certain pitch. No, it is not his. Like Pavlov’s dog this head is finely tuned, finely trained. A
breath, a cry, a murmur, a scream, the pain, the joy, inextricable, like some story-struck,
hospital drama. But let me wear the trousers.
I am the womb engorged, growing, then contracting back in pain. After pain.
After the Madonna? After Goya? After identity?
My blood boils, runs and ceases. Shall I set myself apart until my issue has stopped?
Can I talk with the lips of lips? Perhaps I cannot name the name, the places…woman is
the place, the whole of the place where she cannot appropriate herself as such.
These two hips sever me from myself, from the past, from the world of objects, from
my offspring, from the fruit of my womb. They were strong now painful, I feel them
worn down by the weight of carrying small, large babies, children. Two at once, and
one in the middle. But I am strong I can bear it, I said.
These two arms cradled, pushed, rocked, pulled, teased, bore. They cannot sublime
themselves to one term, generic or specific. They are multiple..
What I desire is ‘autonomous ideality’. I do not want to be reduced to a fiction, or
empty gestures of enforced everydayness, to a single or plural image, to a mechanism,
or a dream to a shade or even a ghost. I am not unified in my insistence. I want words
to envelop me, cover me, assist me from passing back from interior to exterior. I want
to situate myself in identities: loved, revered, idolized mother, a shimmering chimera
of ‘good enough mother’, super-woman, in-between nothing, a multi-headed hated,
abhorred beast, life-giver, gushing writer in blood.
(Based on an original text used for a video-performance work, of the same
title 2002, where I coated my body in lard.)
I DREAMT LAST NIGHT I touched myself, and there were teeth, just there at the
entrance. There were two rows of tiny pointed brittle teeth, perfectly curved like those
in a fish’s mouth. Almost like a tiny trap. I was not afraid, just curious. Were they there
to stop intruders to my deepest darkest place? Were they a warning? Or to create
Some friction, even between parts of our- selves, our bodies, creates frisson, frippery,
fritterllery or maybe fiction. It IS really hard to tell the truth about a body.
The International
Menopausal Woman
And I am free
Menopause is the new freedom
The strength of The International Menopausal
Woman is celebrated.
 Zero
The Blood Works series::
New York 2012
The Last Period
Menstrual Blood drawings and collage
The International Menopausal Woman
Photo: Molly Gibson
Blood Painting Performance
Forthcoming performance
 Lop Lop
The East London Fawcett group have recently launched a campaign exploring celebrity breakup
culture and the subsequent portrayal of female role models in the media. In a time when Caitlin
Moran’s “feminism for the masses” meets the same audience that trawl (not trollunfortunately) the labyrinthine HTML of the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, it seems poignant to
ask why the name-calling and pigeon-holing that sites likes this perpetuate, along with tabloids,
women’s magazines and celebrity gossip columns, goes largely unchallenged. Why do male
celebrities so often escape public break-ups unscathed, while women wind up denigrated by
some all-too familiar negative stereotype? Where do these categories come from? Why are they
so repeatedly assigned? And what are their effects on a gossip-hungry readership?
The title “Heartbreak Launderette” refers (in part) to the name of a recently launched East
London art exhibition. The show, realised by not-for-profit arts organization Pamphlet
( is a permanent installation in a working East-End
launderette, featuring over forty artists’ responses to the theme of a broken heart. The
exhibition's curator, Sienna Murdoch, found that women submitted a clear majority of the
responses received, 116 of 150. When word of this garnered intrigue from local feminist
organisation the East London Fawcett group (ELF), to which I belong, we suggested
incorporating the issues raised by such an alarming statistic into the event itself, and finding a
way to self-reflexively explore why women apparently engage with “heartbreak” and “breakups”
more so than men.
“Heartbreak Launderette” serves as a metaphor for the public exposure of persona languish, the
airing of one’s dirty laundry as it were. For ELF, the tabloid’s portrayal of celebrity breakups
immediately sprung to mind, a sphere in which women seem to be laden with the weight of the
blame and pain, at least via the media’s mediation. One need only glance upon a magazine
stand, log in to twitter, or pick up a tabloid newspaper to encounter images of grieving or guilty
women, negatively stereotyped as the pitifully lonely, the cheating “whore”, the psychologically
unstable, or the “bitch”. This tendency often leaves a negative representation of the female as
both the cause and effect of the break-up.
Acknowledging this, and drawing a link to Pamphlet’s findings, ELF contributed to the exhibition
by placing takeaway, D-I-Y, zine-style reading materials in the launderette. These featured
provocative articles, exemplar twitter slurs, and even an etymological glossary of terms used to
slander women in the media, collectively illustrating just how rife this culture has become (you
can view these handouts here -
One thing became especially clear; the media’s vendetta against certain female role models
manifests itself via specific labels and recurrent tropes, the media a stage upon which famous
women are regularly cast into two-dimensional and degrading roles.
By trawling online archives of tabloid celebrity break-up coverage, I found that the mainstream
media tends to polarize women into two, restrictive categories; the chaste victim and the homewrecking hussy. The Jennifer Aniston-Brangelina debacle is exemplar, the narrative familiarly
evoking Freud’s Madonna-Whore model in the way that it played out across the papers; Jennifer
was the respectable and faithful partner for whom Brad could not maintain fidelity, for he was
inevitably inclined to abandon her for the debased yet tempting whore, Angelina. Brad cannot,
of course, be held responsible, because he was simply acting on Oedipal castration fears, but we
won’t go into that, because the man’s behaviour is never to be dwelled upon.
So instead we concern ourselves with Jennifer; what happened to her? She became the poster
girl for singles everywhere, pigeonholed as the tragic victim before morphing into “desperate
Jen”, her body clock speedily ticking away while she roamed LA for a man. As Hadley Freeman
put it in The Guardian, Jen encapsulated “that media construct that proved so useful for
insinuating that any woman is a failure, no matter how brilliant her life appears to be, if she
Cheryl Cole Upskirt Pic Shock 2012
doesn’t have a husband and seven children” (16.08.2012). No matter how many times Jen
assured the press that she was happy, it was assumed that she was lonely; how could she not be,
without a good man to take care of her? From maltreated girl-next-door to mad spinster-downthe-street, Jen was transformed from one disempowered female stereotype to another. Yet, better
these archetypes perhaps, than “the man-stealing whore”, as Angelina was branded, seemingly
due to an anxiety over her general sex appeal rather than any concrete evidence that her and
Brad had an affair. It’s a blame game, what I perceive as a punitive reaction to Angie’s
hypersexual image, which was shaped by her past behaviour (e.g. two previous marriages and
open bisexuality) and probably bolstered by her continuous confidence. Angie’s vilification might,
more recently, be termed “slut-shaming”, loosely defined as “the act of making a woman feel
guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviours that violate traditional gender
expectations. These can include; having a large number of sex partners, having sexual relations
outside marriage, having casual sexual relations, or acting or dressing in a way that is deemed
excessively sexual” (-Wikipedia).
Why is this age-old, but newly termed, “slut-shaming” notably specific to women? Likely because
men rarely receive the same treatment, Ashton Kutcher took little flack for having an affair
recently, and when do we hear One Direction’s exploits criticised? The idea of this gender
inequality, men more free to enact sexual autonomy and freedom than women, seems outdated.
Yet evidence of it’s perseverance comes from the vocabulary still used to persecute famous
women (and all women), which tends to stem from pejorative semantics (“slut”, “whore”, “hussy”,
“slag”), verses the language used to describe sexually liberal men, which tends to hold altogether
more positive connotations, often relating to sport (“stud”, “player”, “baller”). By continuing to use
this language, the media contributes to a double standard in what is deemed appropriate sexual
behaviour for men and women by our society at large.
Another particularly illustrative instance of this so-called “slut-shaming” came as a consequence of
Kristen Stewart’s infidelity to Robert Pattinson last year, after which she was vilified to an extent
that, for me, conjured Elizabeth Proctor in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Pattinson fans the world
over launched a Twitter vendetta against Stewart, calling her a “homewrecker” and a “slut”. In a
comedy sketch satirising this public outcry, Will Ferrel branded Kristen a “trampire”. Regardless of
whether or not it was throwaway comment made in jest, America soon latched on; celebrity
columns adopted the mantle and `“Kristen Stewart is a trampire” t-shirts became available to buy
online for the sartorially sexist everywhere. The term “Tramp”, pertaining to “a
disreputable woman”, originally stems from etymological connotations of walking and wandering,
thus “tramp” as a dysphemism against women insinuates that they can have too much mobility or
agency. Combine this with “Vampire”, an allusion to Kristen’s acting career, and you’ve got what
speaks to me at least, as a portmanteau which succinctly embodies the cause of most slutshaming, a social insecurity about sexually autonomous and successful women.
Break-ups aside for a second, an obvious example of a social anxiety over sexually assertive
women in a dominant position (that is, world domination, here) would be Madonna and Lady
Gaga, who often get placed in the “bitch” category. As Madonnaresponded, “I'm tough, I'm
ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” And as Lady Gaga
sings in “The Queen”, “Whenever I start feeling strong, I’m called a bitch in the night”. I think we
need to ask; do these women, with their millions of dollars and twitter followers, threaten the
traditional power structures of patriarchal hierarchy?
It seems another popular methodology for undermining these women’s sexual behaviour and
success is to question their sanity; Madge has been called mad and Gaga has definitely been
called Gaga (excuse the tabloid puns). Speculative and sexist, these terms are frivolously used
like a modern day version of “female hysteria”, a medical diagnosis popular until the 20th century,
made exclusively for women and reached from any number of symptoms including, paradoxically,
“too great a sexual appetite” and “too little”. As with hysteria, trashy magazines pathologise
women’s relationship status and sexual behaviour by attributing an amateur diagnosis of mental
illness on an often trivial and arbitrary basis, identifying “signs” like a fivepound weight loss/gain or a new haircut.
I recently heard an activist cleverly distinguish between “the disturbed” and
“the disturbing”, speaking of cases in which those who challenge hegemonic
beliefs structures are designated as mentally unhinged. Social pollicising
operates on the basis that anyone who behaves outside the realms of what is
“acceptable” in a given society is to be cast out of it. Similarly, to call a
woman crazy in the headlines is to completely discredit her, the woman in
question is at once robbed of voice and agency. A popular refrain used inthe
media to denounce successful female celebrities as crazy is “woman on the
edge”, which, for me, conjures Andrea Dworkin’s proverbial metaphor,
“women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture
out, we will fall off the edge”. As celebrities catapult into stardom, paparazzi
lay in wait for them to make a mistake, or experience a breakup, before they
are either demonised or belittled.
To me, celebrity breakups often seem to serve as an opportunity for the
mainstream media to launch an attack on female celebrities that enacts a
culture of discouragement and restriction. Having touched on some of the
ways in which famous women are typecast, it seems that ultimately, to put
these people into categories is to contain them, to contain, for example, their
sexuality and success (by the latter we mean economic power and social
influence). As journalist Ann Friedman put it in the New York Times, “Society
abhors a woman who can’t be categorized — especially if she is wilfully
defying the categories, and even more so if she’s famous” (08.02.2013). But
by placing women in absurd boxes, they are immobilised, controlled, limited.
The media is the locus of current affairs and the space in which we see our
culture represented. At present, popular media platforms are perpetuating
negative female stereotypes, marginalising women as a result of their sexual
behaviour and countering celebrities’ success with debasing labels. I worry
that this creates a critical and hostile environment for women and a gender
imbalance that dissipates outwards. Slut-shaming and other means of
demeaning people is designed to warn others against enacting the same
behaviours; it is a system of societal control. To come back to our original
questions, this entire system and more specifically, many of these labels,
seem derivative of archaic ideas, so why are they still perpetuated in the
media? If we are in an age that some people to believe is equal, the work of
feminism done, then why does a breakup or affair act as a trigger for the
press to hound and degrade women in a way that men simply do not fall
subject to?
These urgent questions have been broached by feminist journalists like those
cited above, and on blogs such as The Vagenda and Jezebel. Recognising the
problem at hand and inspired by those already highlighting these issues and
working against them, ELF decided it was necessary to create a space, a
tangible space, for a counter- dialogue; a discussion in which slut-shaming
and other means of negative stereotyping could be challenged. Not only a
space to explore celebrity breakup culture, but a positive space for the
acknowledgement of successful women and their agency. In aid of this, ELF
are holding an event on February 17th 2013 which will include a panel
discussion and open conversation about the kind of media sexism outlined
above, with a particular address to the effect this can have on women and
young girls. You can find more information about the event here If you are
unable to attend, the discussion will be live streamed via this link:
‘Women, and
particularly their
sexuality, serve
as important
The Cultural Construction of Sexuality
'The vagina is a
gateway to a
happiness and
to her creative
Vagina: A New Biography
Glorious Trauma Festival
You Feel so Beautiful Inside (Internal Female Cast as Sphere) Cast lead crystal
Inside (Internal Female Cast), Cast lead crystal, 1999
Lips Parted (Positive and Negative) Cast glass, 2010
Ecosex Manifesto
13 February - 7
April 2013
Replace Me
Digital print
Reflections on WIN:
A letter to Poppy (Miracle) Jackson from Benjamin Sebastian.
Art is never an end in itself. It is only an instrument for tracing lines of lives...
- Deleuze and Guattari
If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and
eaten alive.
- Audre Lorde
FADO Toronto, Toronto Free Gallery
AND SO ON AND SO ON............................
Above is the statement I have recorded (my own voice) as a material to
use also as audio within performances.
As I write this I am overcome by a nervousness (fear) I am all too familiar with. It is that
nervousness that Audre Lorde describes often and so eloquently with regard to speaking out, being
heard/visible. This to me is important, specifically in relation to your work; being heard/visible, but a
self-owned visibility. Not a visibility imposed from the outside.
It is now six months since we were in Brooklyn (NYC) together. Six months since we paced two
blocks in Bush Wick convincing each other that the only failure possible would be self-censorship.
We were both scared of opening ourselves up (literally), becoming vulnerable and showing that
which so many (still) do not want to see or have exist; the penetrated male and the self-owning
woman. Although I would normally consider myself a non-binary identifying body, I find it
productive at times to identify on the basis of sex and gender strategically, but we can talk more
about that in person.
I want to share with you some of my memories of our time in New York and my experience of your
install-action, WIN, which took place at Grace Exhibition Space.
Grin and Bare It.
I have been thinking about how much unwanted attention Bean received, apparently due to 'looking
different' and when she was researching the legality of states of undress and found that (as in
England) it was legal in the state of New York for women to be topless in public. I can't remember
why you were not with us but I want to recount when Bean and I went for that walk... Two bodies,
both bare-chested, walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. Yes it was a provocative act, but does
not research dictate a rigorous approach? Talk about a reality check. Reactions varied from humour
to aggression and disgust. One man, on jogging past (topless) commented jovially “Now there's
something you don't see everyday” and asked to take a picture. With a reply of no, the man
proceeded to take the picture anyway. After being informed he was operating within the same
power dynamics as rape, this enlightened creature replied: 'If you want to dress like that, I am
within my rights to respond how I like”. This was the first of many people (men) who felt it was
there right to objectify and capture (digitally) Bean's body for their own desires. I remember Bean
and I recounting this experience to you and the myriad of discussions that ensued. WhatI remember
the most is the absolute feeling of frustration and anger surrounding the inequality of it all.
I made a piece in FADO Toronto, Toronto Free Gallery 2010 called
'INVERT' and I had the above on audio playing on repeat.
It is based on the fact of thinking you are mentally ill because you are
gay (early teenage years). Perhaps if I thought about vaginas and
repeated the word vagina, I might have started to like one/fancy one.
As you know that did not happen.
On return from a trip to Coney Island, you and Bean had won a fish (which you later gifted to me,
where was I that day?) from the Win Fish & Critterz fun stall. From the stall operator you had
negotiated a sticker in the style of a target with the word WIN printed on it. You placed this on your
solar plexus and left it there, documenting its disintegration across time (10 days?). I remember
feeling this was just as provocative as Bean walking topless through Brooklyn and Manhattan. The
sticker drew attention to your cleavage, labelling your body/chest (your heart?) as a target. The
word WIN insinuating domination already achieved. Was this an act of defiance, eroding the
misogynistic ownership of your body? Or was this an act of resignation, accepting and becoming that
target fully, enabling self-ownership? I perceived it to be both and something more still.
Our time in New York was almost over, 6 weeks had past. It was the evening that you and I were
programmed to make our install-actions. I had finished my install-action (after having almost
suffocated in a full head bind of gaffer tape) and you helped me to calm down. It was time for you to
begin. Prior, you had instructed me move the entire audience out of the exhibition space for the
beginning of your work. The audience obliged and were instructed that in a moment they would reenter the space, one by one. We began to re-enter the space.
As I entered, I was forced to move through a narrow passage, between wall and counter. I instantly
felt controlled and manipulated. The layout of the room channelled me towards you – naked,
cornered, inverted. Supporting your bodyweight through your neck and shoulders, your arms flowing
out across the floor. You looked to have been thrown there. Your thighs where I expected to view
your shoulders, feet in place of head. Legs splayed wide apart, a tatty homemade sign was inserted
into your vagina (it read WIN – a digital copy taken from documentation of the target you had worn
on your chest). In one hand you held a small blade and in the other, a handful of gold leaf, spilling,
floating out with air currents in the room.
Your position and my height facilitated an awkward, topical view of your vulva, penetrated lips
separated by the cardboard shaft of the sign. Your body suggested the fallen, pornographic
choreography and somehow, a misuse of the female body, particularly the vagina. Yet there was no
misuse: you had orchestrated this scene, claiming the space, body, time and vagina as self-owned. I
remember feeling as though I was in a temple and reverence was required, perhaps demanded.
Even before I had made eye contact with you, I was uncomfortably aware that your eyes were upon
You were gazing at me.
As I traveled past your body into the open area of the space, you traced my movements, only your
eyes moving. You controlled that interaction totally. Over and over again your defiant gaze silently
ushered each audience member past your contorted body and into the space. Some shocked by your
install-action, others laughed nervously. All were unsure of how to act and where to look.
You knew exactly where to look.
With everyone beyond your gaze, you slowly rolled your head to face us, momentarily, you lifted the
blade to your left shoulder and began to cut a long, curving line. Shoulder – solar plexus – shoulder.
Like the line of a bird’s wings in flight, a red mark followed your finger tips and blade. The blood
began to trickle down over the tops of your shoulders, in sporadic little streams. You then began to
gold leaf the curved, now bloodied lines.
This echoed in me of the Japanese pottery practice known as Kintsugi, whereby broken objects are
repaired, not in an attempt to hide the damage but to highlight cracks, fault lines and breakages
with gold. The belief is that the objects become more beautiful because of their history, because of
such damage and re-assemblage.
Gilded, you paused. You withdrew the shaft of the sign from between your labia. Carefully, you lent
the sign against the wall, upright, folded yourself down from the wall and stood before us.
Staunchly, you searched our faces momentarily with your gaze before slowly starting to shake your
hands. Your Head followed, hair flowing across your face and chest. Eventually your arms began to
flail and your whole body violently convulsed until the action was no longer possible.
You regained your balance, gold leaf fluttered and glistened around you in the air. As you shook,
your body was freed of all rational, socially-required calmness and the gold leaf radiated from you.
Sparkling, almost suspended in space and time. That moment felt like a new world where we could
be and do anything. You slowly swept the hair from your face, paused, regarded us and walked
through our mass, parting us as you left.
I often think of New York and WIN. In turn Poppy, I think about the opening quotes in this letter. I
think about the 'lines of lives' you traced with WIN, the bodies (women, men and everyone in
between) damaged by misogyny, sexism, heterosexism and cis-sexism. It seems the world becomes
more multiple and complex with every passing moment. I wonder, if we can define ourselves and
not be 'eaten alive', where might we end up and what lives might we live?
Remembering the final moments of your install-action one particular element blazes in my mind.
In the golden, quite calm that followed your convulsions, I noticed the blood lines (the stream like
tears that had trickled away from the lines that you had cut), that had aptly run with gravity over
your shoulders towards the floor, were now inverted. Uncannily, they now ran up your chest,
seemingly weightless, as though droplets of blood were about to lift from your shoulder tops and
float up and away from your body. In this moment I felt light. Everything felt light. There was
hope and the potential of something... New?
I wanted to reflect here Poppy, share some memories, write a personal letter to you rather than
write an essay referencing theoretical approaches. There seems to be more than enough academic
activity surrounding our field and sometimes I think this is to the detriment of the actual work.
My finale thought for you is this: Do you remember when we met Tehching (Sam) Hsieh? Do you
remember how terrified we were to know he was in the audience, viewing our work? Why? Why
were we so scared? Both you and I are exploring the world and everything that has come before
us through our bodies in our time, in our space. No one can tell us how to do this or that we are
doing it wrong. There are no benchmarks, no one has ever lived in our bodies, here and now.
Watching you reclaim your body from the violent histories of misogyny and patriarchy was so
inspiring and gave me courage to dream of other ways of being. I will hold onto this lightness
Poppy, thank you.
With love and autonomy,
Benjamin. Xx
WIN was curated by Bean and Benjamin Sebastian as part of the residency programme/performance
festival; Alien(s) in New York (Funded by Arts Council England and the British Council through the
Artists' International Development Fund awarded to the curators). Grace Exhibition Space, Brooklyn.
NY. August and September - 2012
Continued from Page 13
Inherent within all these (generally sympathetic) criticisms is the difficult disjuncture where structure
and subject collide. Materiality emerges through signifying systems and these systems are themselves
material, thus the collision is never between two but creates an involuted encounter that dissipates
molecules of each as more or less intensified in regard to moments of thought and actualisation. The
tactical selection over the subject-thing ‘woman’ for the paradigmatic vulva makes a voluminous
rather than absent or male-defined space, a feminist space that is imperative for all sexes to
participate with and which can allow all subjects to have similar intensive aspects of political unity
without themselves being the same. Deleuze and Guattari’s reminder that women themselves must
become-woman risks formulating a chronological evolution of becoming as a temporal project – which
woman, what intensities make up woman? Is asking defeating the very purpose of the ambiguities of
the noun? Without asking what are we doing? Irigaray critiques the very asking of the question itself
as making a woman-ing impossible. (1985: 120-121) She says: ‘I don’t know whether the [male]
person who asked the question wants to try again or not…’ (1985: 121)
The many folds of the vulva create connections, multiplying Irigaray’s model of the more-than-andless-than-one two lips. Like the penis and its relation to the phallus, the vulva is an organ that is
known but not (in polite company) seen. It is the ultimate phantasy of nothing to see and the horror
of seeing it is too much – unlike the penis the vulva is neither funny nor virile but confounding. This is
true both metaphorically and in popular parlance actually. The vulva is not visible when the human
body is erect. The concentric resonances of erect phallus-erect human-erected-speech erectedknowledge can be reconfigured through the vulva being there but not necessarily seen, thus the
categories of human and knowledge also contort. Because the vulva is made up of folds, shared
language is always expressed from one fold and is neither independent of the perspective of the
speaker’s position nor entirely apparent to that speaker – language, rather than seen as coming from
outside as a transcendental structure, frees itself to inherent independent ambiguity at the crease
where two folds are juxtaposed, fused only through inflection not assimilation or metonymic
juxtaposition. Incommensurability is therefore always part of the vulvic structure, neither a failure nor
celebrated rupture. The vulva is female but in aspects thus becoming-vulva allows one minoritarian
subject woman to share one aspect or fold with another based on a common political or ideological
activist-desire, Deleuze’s continuity thus incorporates other elements, a continuity between what is
traditionally discontinuous. Continuity is constituted by particle-intensity elements, not forms.
Becoming-vulva emphasises the movement of the two lips as our folding with them and our foldplanes forming connections which we cannot see but which affect the singularity nonetheless, as we
perceive relations with elements of other planes that do not perceive themselves but affect, to
infinity. In relation to the fold-unfold-foldings of becoming-vulva is the fold itself as a fluid inflection,
what Irigaray has called blurring and mucosal. This resists the risk in creating yet another binary from
the mechanics of fluids versus solids. Mucosal describes the fluids emergent of and from the vulva
which connects the vulva’s folds with itself and blurs demarcations of externality, while Irigaray
claims sperm has been associated with a form of object, but because it is within spermal fluid
threatens to ‘crumble’ the penis. (1985: 113) Crumbling creates a becoming-vulva of the penis
because the penis does not disappear, only dissipates as a unity. Braidotti points out that unique
singularity is not universalism but what Deleuze would call singularity as potential, singularity as
expression (2002: 66), relating expression to Irigaray’s concept of the unconscious which means
singularity as political anchoring point that is, in becomings ‘flows like symbolic glue between the social
and the self…it flows but it is sticky.’ (2002: 143) Perhaps Irigaray expresses the stickiness of each
fold, where we neither select nor apprehend the planes to which we stick, and where angles are sticky
and infinitely fluid, so that fold is always folding, just as becoming-vulva is morphology-in-action. This
all occurs in the space which is here and now, neither exchanged economy nor deliberate nomadic
immigration or defection, but a process which celebrates rather than asks ‘where does this element of
the vulva begin and end?’ just as one asks where as subject do I begin and end? Deleuze and
Guattari’s lauding of multiplicity in becoming-vulva is always and only the multiplicity of aspectivalfolds and movements within the one. The point of convergence between the two-lips and becomingwoman resolves the phallocentric tendency to bring ‘multiplicity back to the economy of sameness,
oneness, to the same of the one’. (Irigaray, 1985: 131). This point for Irigaray is the shift from solid to
fluid, and the creation of a territory that is not ‘woman’ ripe for male colonisation. She uses the term
pleasure to critique desiring machines. Becoming-vulva could be described as the ethico-political
imperative within pleasure, that is, the desire for that which we cannot know but which needs
mobilisation within a particular political territory in reference to particular real life issues – folds – that
are aspects of the one which is neither unity nor multiplicity, and where becoming-woman is one
trajectory that twists, involutes, emerges and explores the labyrinth of the fold. Some of these turns
may be deeply unpleasurable for the majoritarian. Becoming-vulva creates all these turns as a
structure, or what Irigaray sees as the urgently needed woman’s terrain of becoming – the
‘unterritorialized spaces where her desire might come into being’ (Irigaray, 1985: 141) – rather than
becoming which demands one term, such as ‘woman’. ‘The process of imitation may set up analogies
between ourselves and what we imitate but cannot engage us in creative becomings. Irigaray says
something similar when she insists that our encounters with others – in particular the feminine other to
whom we would like to relate – must involve mutual becomings rather than specular identifications.’
(Lorraine, 1999: 182) While Deleuze and Guattari are explicit that becoming is adamantly not
imitation, Irigaray asks how man can become what woman never had, that is, her own pleasure?
(1985: 141) None of us are but we all occupy becoming-vulva. Vulva is a noun, yes, but a mucosal
inapprehensible one, and indeed a word not frequently used in common parlance in the same way as
woman. As a fold structure we also do not occupy one versus many spaces but one space which
stretches, folds, inflects and thus multiples are aspects not sets of singulars which can co-opt other
singulars. In this sense Deleuze would emphasise the fold as a consistency-relational space more than
the hybrid form posited in A Thousand Plateaus. He calls this a dimension, not a physical environment.
(1999: 109) The vulva thus could be a dimension-form, and Irigaray’s terrain a material dimensional
reality, in excess but not ignorant of ‘real life’ dimensions. Indeed as Deleuze offers the singularity of
dimensions there can no longer be a doubling of real versus abstract places. They are always both, like
the fleshy vulva configuration.
known, the phantasy of objectivity, even the question itself ablate and atrophy fluidity, connectivity,
‘Woman’ cannot cause becomings, inflection with certain, specific, politico-historical planes invoke
accountable subjectivity, thought, the multi-sensorial and speech which is not through the language of
becomings, and the becoming-minoritarian of the majoritarian is a question of resistance to or desire
the same/one. The lips are always and already in a condition of pleasure and they need nothing other
for mucosal folding: not a question of terminology but becoming-vulva is the terrain rather than the
than themselves. Any additional connections create extensions and becomings as third, fourth, fifth
term. All elements occupy the terrain and so becoming-vulva describes tensions, thresholds, activity-
elemental terms. Man’s need for woman as a tool places onus on the tool as a signifier, not of
affect-passivity-syntheses, and action-potential, not a project involving a thing. The terrain of the
something that is, but something that is to be used. Man cannot touch himself and thus his self is
vulva is always there and perhaps a more appropriate element would be to apply Deleuze and
always object and objective. He is neither mani-fold nor in reflective relation to himself. Activity and
Guattari’s becoming-imperceptible, as the vulva-terrain is discursively affective but not perceptible as
passivity are forces which occur within the same space as resistance-expression. Most importantly
noun, smooth singular space or uni-localised place for occupation, against the ‘kingdom’ of women
woman touches herself as her condition of being, not as autonomous choice. The phallus rents the two
(for becomings). However, as Deleuze and Guattari claim concepts come from problems, to remain in
vulva lips apart and penetrates the vagina, shifting woman’s relation to herself to one as object for
the field of politics as problems, I will return to the tactical use of the vulva as noun. How the vulva is
male sexuality and her many folds as quickened into a mournfully empty aperture. Male language
desired toward becoming the vulva, momentarily, will ‘be’ a concept before describing a larger
forces itself between the mouth lips of women, compelling her to listen and speak only in the language
abstract territory.
and always flawed. The use of a tool performs two functions. The first is to nomenclature the
expressive aspect of content within a phallic discourse, the second to prevent it acting beyond or
These ideas are simply a series of sketches of issues. I neither wish to vindicate nor condemn Deleuze
without that discourse and especially, acting for itself (which is the self it does not and cares not to
and Guattari, but many of the issues are ones which have also plagued feminism. When feminists ask
‘know’, but to think or touch).
‘what do we want’, the ‘we’ is far more problematic than the want. This has been the nexus of
innumerable and continued discussions. The problems within a male discursive navigation of women
The crux of the difficulty with these many issues can be summed up by Deleuze and Guattari’s
can itself offer a traversal line of flight where different perspectives of the same issue and different
navigation of content and expression. Content is pragmatic, action and passion, while expression is
issues from a sympathetic perspective create assemblages rather than antagonisms – a vulvic fold,
semiotic – the regime within which content operates and through which action-passion is potentialised.
not one elements demand to penetrate and colonise the other with language, thought and flesh.
‘Incorporeal transformations’ (1987: 504) attribute certain qualities to content-forms. Content and
Becomings are assemblages, and, like the horror of the vulva tamed as vagina/castration site, are
expression form a strata which is cut through by a line of flight which deterritorialises expression and
always more than and less than one, infective, leaky, scary, literally round-ed up, to resemble inside-
thus materially transforms content by connecting it to another assemblage – a different refrain – or
out penis apertures. Before they ever mention woman, in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari
operating within its own territory to reconfigure it. This second deterritorialisation is most pertinent to
invoke female genitalia: ‘Comparing a sock to a vagina is OK, it’s done all the time, but you’d have to
becoming vulva in that it is the reciprocal territory of expression-content within singular concepts that
be insane to compare a pure aggregate of stitches to a field of vaginas.’ (1987: 27) The connective
can orient the accountability of a majoritarian in becoming-woman without leaping straight onto and
aspect of the stitches, and their inside-outside folding-emerging is expressive of the vulva, and recalls
hijacking the woman’s own becoming-refrain or, worse still, teaching her the refrain she has been
Lyotard’s möebian skin because ‘rather than being smooth, is on the contrary (is this topographically
extricated from in phallologocentric culture. But neither deterritorialisations are entirely extricated. It
possible?) covered with roughness, corners, creases, cavities which when it passes on the first “turn”
is thinking Irigaray’s two lips as two-two lips, folded into infinity – the genital to mouth lips where
will be cavities, but on the “second” lumps’. (2-3) It is indeed topographically possible – but as
semiotic female speech and pleasure are one fold configuration; the mouth to another mouth
Deleuze and Guattari state you have to be insane – so the vulva-field is a schiz-territory. Does the
connection where my top lip is the others other lip and speech cannot be spoken with one mouth but
mucosal unconscious require an insane-‘man’? Deleuze and Guattari claim nouns domesticate
two mouths creating one expression; the vulva to vulva connection where women speak together their
multiplicities and jeopardise the assembling connections of their intensities, just as the vagina
own pleasure independent of men and thus within a different system of language, this language being
domesticates the vulva as its own multiplicity while smoothing it as aperture and ignoring all its other
explicitly corporeal, ‘she has two mouths and two pairs of lips’. (Irigaray, 1992: 170). This resonates
folds to prevent any intensive connections with the penis as phallus (because, most obviously and
with Wittig’s claim that without alterity there can be no definition, and, while Irigaray sees difference
perhaps most imperatively needing to be challenged) the penis is domesticated by the phallus. The
as imperative in feminism (which is why she has been maligned as advocating compulsory
domestic chore… the woman reduced to only mother or wife darning to repair the smoothness of the
heterosexuality) Wittig’s nomenclaturing of lesbians as not women fares little better than Deleuze and
sock, utters ‘darn this sock!’
Guattari’s claim that all men should be minoritarian-women. For Irigaray it is alterity in itself, not
Irigaray demarcates particular qualities of the morphology of the phallus as preventing the opening of
a space of difference. The prevalence of the visual, the solid, the demarcated, the relegated, the
between two defined entities, that is key. The sharing between the unlike evinces the alterity rather
than ablating it. The genital lips speak as the mouth lips, a language which is silent to phallologic
audibility. She speaks of breathing together, the sexual pant but also the trembling breath that awaits
the ethical difference between love – which is imagination and creation – and hope, which is always for
but does not need to know what it awaits, speaks as imagination, creation.
the pre-formed, always simultaneously hope for and through slavery, causality and the elusive.
(Deleuze, 1988: 26) A vulva is already a pack animal, a demonic schema between various connected
The only guide there being the call to the other. Whose breath subtly impregnates the air, like a
elements. We may know what to do with a vagina, but what do we do, what can we do (what can’t we
vibration perceived by those lost in love. Their senses awake, they boldly go forward by ways
do) with a vulva? – ‘the demon functions as a borderline of an animal pack, into which the human
where others see only shadows and hell. They go forward and sometimes a song comes to their
being passes or in which his or her becoming takes place by contagion.’ (1987: 247) The vulva’s
lips. From their mouths come sounds which mean nothing.’ (Irigaray, 1992: 217)
borderline sexual organ undifferentiated pleasure fold requires the affected connected to enter into
alliance, to be infected by the vulva’s molecular possibilities of sexual acts and pleasures and
The vulva breathes beyond speech or silence. The vulva is the wound, too much, not enough, too
signification and semiosis as acts of pleasure in power. The whole desiring body must be more than
visceral, not present. Freud’s dark continent, castration, Lacan’s specular lack and Irigaray’s
one and folded to enter into alliance with the vulva – a sorcerer body. Otherwise the vulva is reduced
elucidation of the larger philosophical trajectories in dominant culture that make the way we
to the little penis clitoris and the absent-penis sheath.
understand genitalia a symptom rather than the cause of the blind spot. Deleuze sees folds as
crucially ‘free of any intentional gaze’ (1999: 109) and the phallic compulsion to look and thus know
Becoming implies:
is thus antagonistic to the fold.
An initial relation of alliance with a demon…There is an entire politics of becomings-animal, as
Repudiation of inappropriate objects – for Deleuze and Guattari anything that is irredeemably other,
well as a politics of sorcery, which is elaborated in assemblages that are neither those of the
woman, girl, animal, and asemiotic elements without signification such as colour, harmonious music
family nor of religion nor of the State. Instead they express minoritarian groups, or groups that
without melody – prevents unfolding-refolding from producing a hybrid third term or self as part of a
are oppressed, prohibited, in revolt or always on the fringe of recognised institutions, groups all
greater in-between and less than its own ideational subjectivity. Folding with another
the more secret for being extrinsic, in other words, anomic… becoming-animal takes the form of
incommensurable element – what Deleuze and Guattari call an inter-kingdom or unnatural
a Temptation, and of monsters aroused in the imagination by the demon. (Deleuze and Guattari,
participation – makes the subject more than and less than one dividuated, apprehensible and
1987: 247)
knowable, therefore phallic, self. Deleuze, after Spinoza, claims ethics comes from what is produced
between the encounter of two entities, not from two entities addressing each other according to a
The vulva is a tempting form. Its tempting aspect is traditionally one of the reasons for its danger and
larger, established and prescriptive structure. The fold relation cannot help but produce because
the imminent downfall of the (usually majoritarian) tempted. The vulva is also a monster, all the more
traditional structures do not allow for these unnatural inter-kingdom relations. They are prohibited or
monstrous for simultaneously being so tempting, evoking the fascination of ambivalence – elaborated
named perverse. According to Irigaray women are oppressed because they must accede to larger
in feminist teratology, particularly Braidotti’s work. Without using the term however, and beyond the
structures – as wife, as mother but never as for-herself. Only when women can be a for-herself can
everyday monstrosity of traditionally oppressed subjects, Deleuze and Guattari invoke monster
she enter into productive relations. Parts of women’s former folds have been constituted by
structures – hybrids, demons, abstract entities.
phallologocentrism so while the past does not guarantee the future it also doesn’t forget it. The forherself as mani-fold allows feminism to avoid the trap of essentialising what woman ‘is’. All that
For all the ways the vulva transgresses and traverses dominant phallic paradigms it is both prohibited
woman is is a condition independent of phallologocentric structure because within that structure
and perceived as revolt-ing (in both senses of the word). The vulva, as opposed to the obedient
‘woman’ is relegated to wife, mother and so forth. Irigaray is adamant: ‘woman would be wife and
vagina, will not be defined by production (family), chastity (Church) or an acceptance of subjugation
mother without desire’ (1993: 117). Thus becoming-vulvic is a shift in patterns of desire.
(state). It cannot be seen with a speculum. It is, nothing more than the everything which is an
Form and Force-Fold
assemblage of folds, organs, elements, textures, tastes and involutions with its disciples. It is,
materially and conceptually, a rupture and rupturing. The vulva is a demon – convoked by the sorcerer
fascinated with the possible but unknowable futures the vulva offers, tempted by the vulva’s seduction
against the warnings of family, church, state. But like a demon the vulva must also be evoked. It will
Forms are shadows only when seeking to apprehend the solid is impossible, knowledge prevented and
not come unless it is desired and it cannot materialise unless through the desires of the sorcerer. The
the self relegated to hell – perhaps a feminine realm, where Deleuze and Guattari’s demons reside.
idea of the vulva is the temptation, but its evocation is the demon with which the unholy alliance is
Meaningless sounds are words without syntax, devoid of the nouns that are the little phalluses of
formed and the becoming-vulva facilitated. Many demons in a variety of literature and lore are vulva-
speech. Deleuze, after Spinoza, sees belief in the possibility of seeing, knowing and controlling and
like. Many demonic forms follow the basic tenets of the vulva as somehow gender ambiguous, as
assemblage or fold, as both tempting and dangerous. Against the singularity of the phallus and the
contrary of folding but follows the fold up to the following fold.’ (Deleuze, 2001: 6) For each form
majoritarian subject, ‘My name is Legion: for we are many’ said Satan (Mark 5:9, also referenced in
there are those forms which impress upon it to offer its form as the act of creation and reaction
Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 239) and so is the vulva and the affinities we form with it. Leviathan is
through those forms which buttress it; mouth, genital, skin, object, breath, heat, vibration, cold,
one example of a demonic form becoming-vulva. Leviathan, like vulva, translates from Hebrew as
absence, pressure, vacuum. Lyotard’s möebian band: ‘open up the so- called body and spread out all
‘that which gathers itself together in folds.’ (Davidson, 173)
its surfaces…the labia majora, so also the labia minora…and this is not all, far from it, connected onto
these lips a second mouth is necessary, a third mouth, a great number of other mouths, vulvas.’
If vulva is infinite and indefinite, how can we refer to it as being of a form? Deleuze and Guattari state
(Lyotard: 1) As with becomings, Lyotard includes the organic, inorganic, the sonorous and the
of form as a turning point in thought;
coloured, adjectives disanchored from nouns, inflections and always there are concealed planes and
elements, connections which are not apparent. Through becoming-vulva the act of conceptualising a
a form in itself that does not refer to any external point of view… so many inseparable variations
vulva, which has no transcendent form, creates another dimension to the act of becoming; a
on which it confers an equipotentiality without confusion…under its first aspect of absolute form
constellation of conceiving as creating, while becoming. In order to become, form must be reoriented
, appears as the faculty of concepts, that is to say, as the faculty of their creation (Deleuze and
from analogy to transformation through contagion. However because the vulva form is itself unstable,
Guattari, 1994: 210-211)
demonic becoming is launched.
The vulva here does not appear prior to the act of thinking and its appearance is concept-aspect,
which is also the act of creating it as a perception-thought-force. The vulva is infinite determinates
The folding of two matters refers to the involution of two forms and their impact within and upon each
and its dimensions become reformation of the single plane through perception as creation. Unlike the
others’ memory, future and present form and force. The fold is not the result but the act of force of
phallus, which has already been folded into a particular configuration to the extent that to create it as
forms. Becoming-vulva is how we are vulva and vulva is us, how we reform vulva and as vulva, and
a concept is subsumed by its immediate presence to its own transcendent form. Shifting from
how vulva reforms us and as us. While each form becomes the other, their specificity and for feminism
knowing to thinking female form as aspectual foldings necessitates the death of majoritarian
their memory is essential to their becoming. The forms do not homogenise or forget but retain
subjectivity, which is why theorists refer to the fatal results of the ancients’ attempt to locate female
specificity and yet assemble. ‘If two distinct things can be really inseparable, two inseparable things
pleasure in demonic women; Medusa’s gaze (Cixous, 1981), the Sirens’ call (Foucault, 1997) and the
can be really distinct.’ (Deleuze, 2001: 12) Woman already has a vulva (rather than being had by the
gaze of Orpheus demanding Eurydice come into the world of the male gaze (Blanchot, 1981). Because
phallus, both duped and biblically) distinct and indistinct from her form. The fold of vulva, thought and
the vulva is internal, external, relatively smooth mons verenis full frontal, occluded and splayed labia,
self creates a simultaneity of differential elements and integration. According to Leibniz, unlike
and various other possible configurations depending on positioning, to see it through one perception
inanimate forms which are components of assembled parts, organic elements cannot have their choices
or orientation is impossible. The body must actually be reformed or refolded to catch a glimpse of all
inferred in advance, thus an organic element is required in becoming, through relations with organic
the vulva’s various aspects.
or inorganic elements, as yet undeveloped, larval. ‘[There is] no universal reason or law of nature is
assignable from which any creature, no matter how perfect and well informed about this mind, can
infer with certainty what the mind will choose.’ (Leibniz: 102) One’s own incapacity for inference is
Can we say we have a memory of vulva in the same way as we refer to the meaning of the phallus as
included. And the vulva neither follows a predictable narrative of temporal ‘choice’ (what it will do) nor
a historical artefact? ‘Man constitutes himself as a gigantic memory, through the position of the
spatial ‘choice’ (what it will be).
central point, its frequency (insofar as it is necessarily reproduced by each dominant point) and
resonance (insofar as all of the points tie in with it.’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 293) The phallus is
Irigaray’s model of the two lips shares much in common with Deleuze’s work on Leibniz and Foucault.
a memory which paradigmatically resonates with systems. Memories of a sorcerer are invocations,
Through Leibniz Deleuze elaborates the baroque as a physics of process over content, where any
memories of a phallus are recognitions.
concept can only be apprehended from perspective, that is sensed, and that perspective offers folds
which are believed to be present but are not ‘visible’ (knowable and so forth), which are visible but not
Forms fold and refold, recreating their own forms by their capacity to influence themselves. At the
able to be known – seeing in the dark – and the larger structure of which folds with the observer. The
same time they influence external elements and external elements influence them. In the act of
fold is a homogeneity made of heterogeneous expression which, at each reconfiguration unfold and
creating the vulva toward its various becoming potentials, the vulva’s dimensions fold and refold. ‘A
refold (however not ‘back’ into an original plane). The unfold is a future and creates the conditions of
fold is always folded within a fold, like a cavern in a cavern [but not fractal of same, rather what
possibility of the refold without knowing what the refolded concept will produce. If expression
Lyotard would call a labyrinth]…correlative to elastic compressive force. Unfolding is thus not the
actualises content, then the fold is what actualises a thing, rather than a thing autonomously folding.
The fold, like the möebian band, is made up of the sides of planes which, depending on the folded
present to themselves, all the while folds of shared indivisible presence are present to both. Deleuze
configuration, encounter each other in a particular expressive structure, thus elements which are not
and Irigaray both use a fold structure where the subject exists as folds and folds with the world to
known to be commensurable are nonetheless possible and condition the possibilities of the next fold.
express a version of that world, necessarily therefore folding with other subjects. Both see desire as
The point of encounter also cuts across and between elements, traversing fold configurations and
the driving force of the ways in which subjectivity unfolds and refolds, shifting paradigms and self as
creating new trajectories between fold homogeneities. The organic and inorganic are not of the same
metamorphic, always and in spite of itself launching upon new becomings. The politico-ethical moment
matter yet activate folds with each other, emphasising the materiality of word and flesh as a
comes when the self seeks to fold with the unlike or inappropriate. Dialectic desire maintains distance
sensuous continuum.
and therefore subject and object do not involute, reducing the unfold-refold potential of the subject.
Deleuze lists six elements inherent in the baroque fold. Put very simply these are: 1. Fold as a
Becoming-vulva is splaying of self, becoming-indeterminate, palimpsest, the open and pure intensity of
problem not of completion but continuation. The vulva depends on the movement of the body to
being a visceral, viscous and shuddering signification – stuttering, silence, folded, present but invisible,
create new configurations, while only the still erect body can express the phallus. The phallus, truth
visible but not knowable, catalysing a structure and series of pleasure planes beyond and in excess of
and male sexuality seek completion. The feminine neither starts nor ends in space and time, and as a
the phallus. It may include aspects of becoming-clitorised, variously penetrated and penetrating,
problem itself can neither be posited nor solved. 2. The line of inflection which does not reconcile or
onanistic and orgiastic, confusing dominance and submission and most importantly, becoming-
homogenise elements but harmonises them through their mobile relation. Women, lips, desires,
manifold. Not knowing what will be-come of oneself as thought-materiality. Becoming-vulva is
speech are not the same between those of others or between themselves. Harmony is a question of
receptive and ravenous, desire as infinite and inevitable. ‘It is defined by the number of dimensions it
relation without conversion to sameness. Harmony seeks not equilibrium but a connection which
has; it is not divisible, it cannot lose or gain a dimension without changing its nature…continually
necessarily alters the nature of each element while maintaining its specificity – the hybrid moment of
transforming itself… according to its thresholds and doors’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 249) The
becoming. 3. Two elements being of and expressing the same world, but not in the same way. The
territory becoming-vulva reassembles the tensors and thresholds upon which it expresses (us as) force
problem which plagues phallologic is that things perceived as impossible or incommensurable are
and by which force is expressed upon its various planes and dimensions. The self, the vulva and the
nonetheless present and express a world which does not agree with the phallic. The vulva is a schema
world are labyrinthine threshold and their infinity relies only on our exploration.
of expression possible but not unifying. 4. The unfold as continuation, the temporality of the spatial
event. The issue with any invocation of a schema, including becoming-vulva, is that it can be
understood as a model into which one fits. Rather, in becoming-vulva, new positions open new ideas
which could not have existed before – the elements are the model. There is no going back, so
continuation is inevitable and, indeed, frightening, ‘what opens up does not stop in any direction. No
waymarkers in this total risk.’ (Irigaray, 1992: 215) Irigaray sees risk as risk of life. Phallic life is
equilibrium, stasis, atrophy, already dead. 5. The action-passion tension between elements – too taut
and it breaks, not taut enough and it cannot attain harmony. Texture is dependent ‘not on the parts
themselves, but on the strata that determine its cohesion’. (Deleuze, 2001: 37) The vulva is multiple
strata, situating parts at places always crosses other places and creates particular conditions. Certain
conditions will destroy the elements – Deleuze and Guattari’s junkie and masochist risk death.
Covertly when the subject becomes-woman understood as fetish the strata cannot continue until it
leaves behind the masculine-active tautness. 6. The fold as inherently material, beyond an ideationalmodel. This is the most salient encounter with Irigaray and corporeal feminism in general, and why
Lorraine claims Deleuze and Irigaray constitute a visceral philosophy. ‘Unless it becomes the speech
of the flesh, a gift and a message of the flesh, speech remains an outer skin that again and again
exhausts, flays, that falls and covers without giving up its secret.’ (Irigaray, 1992: 111)
In the fold, alterity is encountered within the self, through the other, and the other encounters the
self in ways the self cannot autonomously express. Each element has aspects which are present to
self and not present to self but to the other, and, simultaneously apprehends aspects of the other not
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