Emma Christina Lucia Rochester. Untitled 2017. Embroidery, custom designed uphostery weignt cotton, velvet, cotton, cord and stuffing.
Photo Credit: Carl Warner
The Embodied Artefact: A Nomadic Approach to Gendered Sites of Reverence through an
Interdisciplinary Art Practice Description, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Emma Christina Lucia Rochester. Untitled 2017. Embroidery, custom designed uphostery weignt cotton, velvet, cotton, cord and stuffing, photo courtesy Carl Warner.
This doctoral project, “The Embodied Artefact: A Nomadic Approach to Gendered Sites of Reverence through an Interdisciplinary Art Practice”, moves beyond normative understandings of pilgrimage, God, and artistic scholarly research. Using a contemporary art lens, I travelled in a long durational performance to a multitude of international pilgrimage sites where God-as-Woman is, or has previously been, revered and respected. By moving towards and experiencing not just one destination but many, I have challenged the traditional paradigm of pilgrimage. In doing so, I have undergone a meta-experience whereby visitations to these psycho-spiritual terrains came together as a composite of embodied experiences. This blurring of boundaries seeks to go beyond the particularities of one newly revised gendered site of reverence to consider a process of pilgrimage that moves into and becomes nomadism, thereby developing significant new understandings across the fields of contemporary art practice and pilgrimage studies.
Using my body as a core focus in which embodied practice is not just academic but holistic, I ventured forth on a journey of discovery and affirmation that spanned over three years and numerous countries. During this journey, my woman’s body became the connecting point between pilgrimage sites and artist residencies in a dynamic act of physical and visual activism. I generated art works en route and in retrospect, translating my cognitive felt experience of gendered sacred landscapes and the aesthetic architectural and sculptural elements within them into tangible participatory artefacts. I combined feminist scholarship with experiences of visits to the sites themselves through the lens of the artist generating a viable strategy for the advancement of imagery pertaining to God-as-Woman as an empowering motif.
Specifically, my body became a nexus through which explorations of imagination, memory, and sensorial understandings of each specific gendered landscape and the meta-experience as a whole were filtered and structured into multilayered works. Each artefact created is composed of fibre forms, drawings, textile design, sculpture, video art, and performance artefacts, so that my context-based practice for this PhD project also transcends disciplines.
“The Embodied Artefact” draws on the work of women investigating feminist spiritual concepts, such as artists Mary Beth Edelson, Annette Messager, and Rebecca Horn, as well as the research of theorists such as Carol P. Christ, China Galland, and Rosi Braidotti. The project is conceived as a contemporary blending of performance and artefact, referencing the past in order to renew God-as-She and prevent it from once more dissolving into abstract male-orientated religious dogmas.
By searching through artefacts and texts for specific sites and forms of God-as-Woman, I pay tribute to both the women of the past and the women who continue to uphold non-normative religious scholarship today. Mediating scholarship, intellectual resources, and personal embodiment, I make my experiences available in the form of cultural artefacts. Thus, the research and artwork completed for “The Embodied Artefact” helps to highlight the sacrality of the sites visited, and the centering of women in spiritual contexts, in both imagination and in the flesh.
As a consequence of the research process, this exegesis and the associated exhibitions provide significant additional reflective data on the relationship between affirmative ethics and action, landscape, place and feminisms in regards to a feminist thealogical future.