PhD Oral Exam - Dayna McLeod, Humanities - Arts and Science
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
My research-creation dissertation asks what effects a gendered, ageing, queer body provokes, enacts, and personifies, and ultimately how the body is at stake in cisheteropatriarchy. My dissertation reflects on gendered and aged representations, queer embodiment, intersubjectivity, performance, and performativity. I address representational and material concerns about identity and the status of the queer middle-ageing female body; intersubjective and performative concerns with materiality, practice, and collaboration; audience reception and participation; and my own embodied method of performance as research. I do this by examining how I use my own body in the sound-based, interactive performance installation Uterine Concert Hall (UCH). I examine the development of UCH through its multiple iterations, and the knowledge that was generated through hands-on research and performance, knowledge which would not have been possible through non-practice-based methods. I examine how I use my body within this work as a representational concept and as a material object, as well as its relationship to the audience; I unpack the roles and labour of the audience, my collaborators and assistants, and observe the effects of particular representational strategies on the audience. I also consider age as it factors into modes of representation as well as how age contributes to the work’s aesthetic and physical production. I put UCH into conversation with other artists who use performance-based methods in their practices. The goal of this research is to study the production practices and artworks of middle-ageing feminist performance artists against the backdrop of normative mainstream culture, where the value of female bodies to seduce and reproduce is predicated on their youthfulness. My dissertation addresses a lack of critical engagement with what middle-ageing female bodies mean, how they are represented, and how they are valued in performance art studies and mainstream pop culture. How I developed a methodology to perform and stage my body in this work relies on my performance-based experience, which I address throughout this dissertation.