Patterns of corporeality: the grotesque text/ile body
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This practice-led research project explores the feminine abject through textile design featuring grotesque ornament and pattern. Maintaining a normative feminine identity in a Western culture involves, more likely than not, rigorous self-policing behaviours enacted to identify and eradicate signs of the corporeal self, which is seen as unfinished, vulnerable, and leaky at the margins. This encultured practice involves keeping the body contained and controlled, both physically and visually. Within a traditional Cartesian duality, boundaries are established through an oppositional politics of contrasting fluidity/solidity, irrationality/rationality, and containment/excess. Textiles are one means by which these boundaries are managed — through dress, and also through the textiles of domestic spaces: textiles that function here as a symbolic demarcation between body and world. As the conclusion to this research project I present designs for domestic textiles which, rather than clearly delimiting the leaky self from the public world, provoke experiences of fascination/repulsion in the viewer. The textiles feature pattern and decoration based on grotesque ornament. As a social, artistic, and literary category the grotesque rejects the binary of interior/exterior, instead embracing the fluid, the overflowing, and the excessive. In this thesis I link this to historic notions of women’s place and voice. The artefacts that comprise the practical component of the thesis subvert the formal language of the female nude, which is designed to smooth, control, and contain the excessive female body. They explore how the leaky and abject body can be viewed as other than polluting: namely, as belonging to a different experience of subjecthood.