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Touch in Irish performance art: Haptic encounters in Becoming Beloved (1995) and The Touching Contract (2016)

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Over the last 50 years, Irish feminists have campaigned for women’s sexual health and reproductive rights, including access to contraception, legal abortion and choice in maternity care and childbirth. Recent cases like Ms. Y (2014), P. P. v. HSE (2014) and Ms. B (2016) invite a close scrutiny of the power dynamics relating to women’s reproductive bodies in Ireland. This article examines Becoming Beloved (1995) and The Touching Contract (2016), two performance-based artworks located in Dublin maternity hospitals. Both artworks centred the body as a site of production to interrogate these power dynamics while engaging with specifics of each location. This article charts the management of childbearing bodies in Ireland, looking specifically at issues concerning reproductive and sexual health, information and consent. It details how Irish performance art has responded to the political, social and cultural climate of restrictions on women’s bodies. Becoming Beloved and The Touching Contract both employed haptic encounters, multisensory perceptions composed of tactile, kinaesthetic and proprioceptive sensations that extended beyond a visual aesthetic. These haptic encounters contributed to a dimension of viewer engagement, integral in performance art to activating meaning. This article examines how these two artworks utilized haptic encounters to produce a situated, corporeal knowledge that critiqued the authority wielded over reproductive bodies by political, religious and medical establishments in Ireland.
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Keywords: Irish art; embodiment; feminism; haptic; performance art; reproductive rights

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000419369705Trinity College Dublin

Publication date: December 1, 2020

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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