Developing a hydrofeminist art practice: bodies, spaces, practices

Denning, L.R (2022) Developing a hydrofeminist art practice: bodies, spaces, practices. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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This research presents primary work that has been situated in the city of Plymouth (UK) – Benthic Caress (2017), Hydrosapien (2018) and Manual for Nomads (2020), supported by three bodies of exploratory work (Interim, Rhyne & Huish, Field Notes). Documentation of the work can be found here: This is a practice led PhD that seeks to make a contribution to knowledge by developing the concept of hydrofeminism, through practice. This work is practice-driven, and consciously situated within Environmental Humanities, and this thesis is foundationally and iteratively entangled with the practice. The thesis is undertaken in an interdisciplinary location of intersecting artistic practices, feminisms, posthumanism and cultural geographies, aiming to fold these entanglements into the emerging field of environmental humanities (Bird-Rose et al 2012). It is done through practice led research, thus extending hydrofeminism from its academic (text based) foundation in the work of Neimanis (2012). Water, specifically oceans, estuaries, rivers and other ‘natural’ bodies of water (including puddles) has been the material signifier across the body of work shared here, which is transdisciplinary and which has investigated hydrofeminism using a wide range of creative tools. The creative practice presented here is about water, explored through feminisms, hydrofeminism, transcorporeality, posthumanism and embodiment. Benthic Caress was a site-specific and site-responsive immersive experience that offered participants a sonic engagement with marine life using silent disco technologies. Hydrosapien was a public performance of a section of Hydrofeminism (Neimanis 2012) that pertains to ecotones, presented by a Silent Choir and two experimental voice artists. Manual for Nomads is a short film exploring community and the climate crisis that brings the languages, codes and methods of communication of differently abled persons together to create new conceptualisations of the ecotone.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

Abstract contd:
The research questions asked whether distinct expressions of hydrofeminism, formed in the confluence of practices, theories and methodologies, could address the following issues:

1) In what ways can difference be foregrounded in ways that expand, through a practice that is weighted towards sonic arts, the aqueous metaphors employed with Neimanis’s articulation of hydrofeminism?

This question allows me to unpack the central message within hydrofeminism – namely, that difference is, paradoxically, the marker that connects us. That Neimanis does this strategically, through a broad range of aqueous metaphors, amplifies the watery relationality that the term ‘hydrofeminism’ embodies. Through reference to sonic arts, this question foregrounds the creative explorations of sound art and of D/deafness as sites of multiple differences that my creative practice employs.

2) Can creative practices which articulate the confluence of subject, location, and difference, as ecotone, foreground marginalised voices?

If we choose to read ‘eco/tone’ as a description of human difference, then eco becomes human and tone becomes all the specificities of difference that articulate intersectionality. By poetically locating human within and of the ecotone, Neimanis embeds the centrality of embodiment within her conceptualisations of hydrofeminism, and clearly links subjectivity to location. However, ‘location’ is understood as a site of intersectionality – as the body – a body marked by difference. Difference therefore is foregrounded within the concept of hydrofeminism.

3) The research asks what is meant by location that is expressed through practice and that is significant in the discourses surrounding our transcorporeal relationality.

This question signposts interspecies relationships and the emphasis upon our interconnectedness with more than human others which is embedded throughout the essay Hydrofeminism, and which situates hydrofeminism within an environmentally focused posthumanism.

It is in the convergence of practices, theories and methodologies that new articulations of hydrofeminism have been shaped, beyond textual analyses. It is through an art practice that in its own transdisciplinarity echoes the watery relationality that is at the heart of hydrofeminism, foregrounding an aqueous imaginary across a range of forms and practices, that a new contribution to knowledge has been forged. It is in the specific and dynamic shaping of each body of work generated through this research that the nuance of, and distinction between, particular insights within hydrofeminism have been advanced. This is particularly evident in my conceptualisations of the ecotone, which I use widely within the context of a transdisciplinary arts practice, aiming to prise open the term, and the arts practice, to reveal novel insights that can contest familiar ways of thinking about people, place and sensation. My practice has revealed that it is in the coming together of differently abled persons, and in the languages, codes and methods of communication that these combinations bring to the practice, that a space is created for a re-conceptualisation of the ecotone.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, hydrofeminism, transcorporeality, creative practice, transdisciplinary, ecotone
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2022 17:33
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 18:35
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