Erin Shields

The Laugh of Medusa, Erin Shields

My practice attempts to interrupt the linear performance of reading and looking, by investigating the linguistic form through its physicality and performativity within a space. It negotiates l’ecriture feminine, the idea of writing the feminine, through the associative power of language.

The historical context of printmaking as ‘women’s work’ or craft, is re-appropriated in my works, to make a statement about the female body in terms of labour, and its place in the gallery. I am attempting, as a woman and as an artist, to refigure the controlling gaze of the audience as female. Through this, I intend to create an elliptical self-portrait whilst also allowing the audience to picture themselves within the work. Inside the space, the work is activated by the viewer’s act of reading through their own remembered ideas by producing personalised meanings. Each work is a placeholder for the viewers thoughts and, when they are situated in proximity to one another, meanings can reverberate and ricochet off of each other.

Each piece reflects my own experience of reading Helene Cixous’ The Laugh of Medusa. They are rooted in ideas about the simultaneous intimacy and publicity of women’s lived experience. They represent my own experience of responsive writing, and manifest as sculptural experiences to provoke a performative action of the viewer within the physical space. The pieces are individually transformed by each viewer through their experience of formal and informal written language, with regards to shape, configuration and topography, and further through spoken language, voice, intonations, and body language.

The making of these pieces was informed by the linguistic form of metonymy which can be considered feminine in its fluidity, dependency on context and difference, and reliance on the unconscious to make connections. Each work consists of quotations that have stood out
to me in the process of reading. By reordering, building on and editing existing texts, I have attempted to make statements by emphasising particular questions through the use, or lack of, certain phrases. This has been done via typesetting using an Albion Press, which resides as a disembodied sign of my own physicality and experience within the work. Equally, this physicality recurs in the marking of digital text through handwriting, and through the writing of a subjective prosaic response to a text.

By experimenting with both found language and original prose through different forms of mark-making written, printed; and electronic, I want to show that the use of language in a given text, and language as a whole, is complex and unstable.

Instagram: @erinshieldsart