Feminine fictions: An embodied autobiography : navigating feminine embodied ontologies with/in aesthetic autobiography

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Visual Arts


Faculty of Communications and Creative Industries


“In Speculum I wrote that to re-establish a political ethics a dual dialectic is necessary, one for the male subject and another for the female subject (pp223-4). Today I would say that a triple dialectic is necessary: one for the male subject, one for the female subject and one for their relationships as a couple or in a community. The weak and strong point of this quest concerns the issue of subjectivity and objectivity for women.”

Pg 39 Irigaray, L (1994) Thinking the Difference: for a peaceful revolution trans Karin Montin, Routledge New York

The Feminine Fictions project takes on Irigarays challenge for "A Peaceful Revolution” to find its genesis between men and women through enabling dialectics - an interaction between masculine and feminine subjectivities at the point of difference and within the context of relationship and community.

For Irigaray, historically repressed feminine subjectivities must continually be (re)constructed/ transgressed in order for such dialectics to be both possible and empowering. In Feminine Fictions I take up Irigarays engagement in the hope that doing so will re-create bonds of relationship and community for and with women that yield such enabling returns. To do so I use the axes of symmetry and scale that Irigaray identifies - working from the subject to the transcendent, from the cosmic to the divine and from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic. Masculine and Feminine appear as continually coalescing co-ordinates rather than limits in these axes, moments of opportunity rather than fixed references points and using subjectivity as a portal for viewing the cultural construction of “objective” experience. I adopt Irigarays mechanisms of mimesis, alterics and transgression (Irigaray 1981 a & b, 1985 a & b, 1986,1987 a&b, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1999,2000) through autobiography (Miller 1991, Benstock 1988, Brodzki & Schenk 1988) to inquire into my own embodied, engaged subjective experiences. I work from that position to cross and re-cross ontological thresholds, and through that continual movement, to articulate feminine subjectivities that arise in dialogue with the Other, amongst community.

Feminine Fictions poses a series of questions:

  • What can embodied aesthetic engagement reveal through/for “the feminine” as a site of difference?
  • How does this impact through/on my particular ontological and subjective experiences (and vice versa)?
  • How is this significant for contemporary feminisms?

I use written and factured terms – aesthetic practice and performance - to re-member, generate and extend my subjective experience and finally articulate and record that experience of being-in-the-world in response to these concerns (MacDonald: Swindells 1995). The project culminating in an embodiment of the ontological research through an installation and performance event at Fremantle Prison on December 8 2002 involving 55 members of my epistemic community (Babbit: Alcoff & Potter), including my family.

The evening provided an opportunity to undertake multiple ‘readings’ of the work and a way to mimetically re-construct my personal inquiry process in collective terms. The organising metaphorical structure of the event, the Stations of the Cross, foregrounded the incarnational aesthetic of embodied difference, ontological construction and transgression central to the project (Bozarth 1997, Irigaray 1986 & 2000). The prison became a laboratory that could be used collectively and personally by each participant to explore their own embodied experiences of being-in-the-world and explore their own ontological orientations and philosophies-in-action.

The entire project was then produced into an exegetical theses as a CD ROM in website format to extend the proposal of embodied ontology into cyberspace and contemporary technological constructs (Wiley: Price & Shildrick 1999). The website format also allowing for a labyrinthine structure that can bring together the factured and conceptual work through geographical space into the alteric space of the internet.

LCSH Subject Headings

Feminism in art

Sex Role

Women - Psychology

Installations (Art)

Edith Cowan University. Faculty of Communications and Creative Industries -- Dissertations

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