project :: first encounters with one’s own femininity

Project website is http://onesownfemininity.com and literary submissions are accepted via submit


The interdisciplinary grant title, Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, called to mind the fact (or at least based on my unlimbered capacity and imaginings) that a female can only see herself, her physical sexual specificity, with some form of reflecting device. Gender understandings seem to be culturally constitutive and core to our identities, more so than we would like to believe possible. This performative reading project collaboratively explores the female’s first encounter with her own femininity. It is our intent to work fluidly between physical space (visual art/installation), textual/literary space (flash creative nonfiction/confessional poetry), and liminal space (theatrical direction, contemplative somatic movement, aural exploration/interpretation) and body.

Perhaps you are wondering exactly what the heck we mean by performative reading. We have not yet read your writings that will be selected by our juror. From these we will derive the performative elements. Tentatively envision something like the following:

Eleven foot chairs composed from deconstructed domestic doors.

Eleven foot chairs composed from deconstructed domestic doors.

Imagine a cluster of women scattered in pairings, back-to-back, seated or standing, on oversized raw home furnishings built from domestic thresholds (doors and windows and frames) set outdoors in the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts’ new courtyard. It is evening and the sun has just set, silhouetting the four to seven pairs of distorted handcrafted chairs. 

A light rises on one pairing—a seated woman reading, and at her back, a second seated human-artifact is performing with a single slow repetitive contemplative body movement. The human-artifact is functioning intertextually with her objectness and gesture melding at a conceptual juncture between body and text; firsts and femininity; lived and distorted memories. The light dims as the reading and gesture of the pair begins again softly. 

A secondary pairing of reader and human-artifact becomes the attentional focus as the light intensifies upon them. The second reading and performative gesture are enacted. This continues through a series of four to seven texts. Each pairing and gesture will be unique to its specific text. 

At the end, with all lights dimmed, the readers exit their seating/standing positions. Still reading as they walk, they navigate to empty seats amidst the audience. The readers slowly lower their heads and voices in unison until they can no longer be heard but their lips remain moving with their text. Simultaneously, the human-gestural-artifacts diminish their gestures and bow their heads as they still. The lights remain dimmed for a few moments. 


The lights come up only slightly to cue the end. Readers and human gestural artifacts remain seated, heads bowed as the floor is opened for Q and A.


For each text there will be a simple somatic intervention developed and implemented. If relevant, the gesture may be aural. The bodily interventions’ ideation will arise from the style of body object relationships developed by the visual artist, Ann Hamilton’s in her Body Object series [images included] and performative works. Artists, dancers, actors will contemplative engage the slow repetitive somatic gesture derived for each text during the reading. The performers will be color simplified and coordinated with their reading partner.


Tentatively distorted domestic furnishings, in pairs, will be built from deconstructed doors, windows and their frames. Each pairing will be matching but vary in scale—one oversized, one undersized. The specific nature of the installation will be derived from the selected texts. The installation will be installed in the LHUCA courtyard. It will be on view prior to the performance during the April 2016 First Friday Art Trail. Participating artists will disseminate postcards promoting the performative reading.

past work. [chairs 11' high, table 20' long x 7' wide]. 2012


The texts of flash* nonfiction or confessional poetry (750 words or less) will be secured through a juried open call [DEADLINE DEC 15, 2015]. These will be new writings developed specifically for objects in the mirror are closer than they appear: first encounters with one’s own femininity. Dr. Katie Cortese, the juror, will select four to seven works from the open call. Twenty literary submissions will be selected for an online ISSUU book.

Graduate students from TTU’s Creative Writing and the Theater programs, will be recruited as the readers.

A list serve serving a professional community of 10,971 writers will be the primary vehicle/web site to promote the open literary call for original texts, as recommended by TTU Creative Writing Faculty. Additionally the call will be posted on Glasstire.com and other local art sites. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/crwropps-b/info


Performance will be digitally documented by MFA photography studio students. An ISSUU digital publication will be created containing the twenty jurored essay/poems and imagery captured from the performative reading and art installation. Art director for this will be led by Kathy Kelley, MFA Graphic Communication. Participating literary, performative and documentary artists, as well as participating faculty, will each receive a copy. The ISSUU, selected texts, and photographic documentation will be accessible on this site.



LHUCA campus outdoor courtyard situated between the Main, Clay and Grafitti buildings.


April 2016. The performance will be coordinated to occur along with the TTU Women’s Conference, April 13-16. The installation for the performance will be pre-installed so that it will be on exhibit for the April’s First Friday Art Trail with signage and participating artists promoting the mid-April reading/performance date via post cards.


Texas Tech University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and literary community, Women’s Conference attendees, and the local Lubbock community. The structural part of the installation will be up for April’s First Friday Art Trail and thus will reach a broad audience of art visitors. The works will be publicly accessible at no cost.

texas tech university

Texas Tech University, Lubbock


The this project draws heavily on Ann Hamilton’s object/body/performance practices it initial arose out of years of sitting with and mulling over Faith Wilding‘s 1971 Womanhouse performance, Waiting.


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