Torpor Auras (Honours thesis)

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Exegesis abstract: 

Through visual art practice-led research I am developing a language that can express emotional experiences affected by illness under the weight of a patriarchal influence. This research is framed and influenced by the theoretical ideas of Hélène Cixous who argues that women are lacking words to describe their personal experiences because the language provided to them is made within the patriarchy, and the ideas of Virginia Woolf who discusses the concept of experiencing illness as a neglected topic of exploration and the absence of words to express it. This project uses the conceptual framework established by Woolf and Cixous to explore ways to develop a language through experimental analogue photography and projection installation, which act as a corporeal and poetically engaged visual language. Relying on empathic allowance to articulate affectual experiences that are in a liminal space between what can be verbalised.

This research aims to contribute to an ongoing feminist dialogue, especially concerning feminine centric illness, furthermore the research will address the issue by employing the liminal qualities of analogue photography to promote mindfulness and healing through practice.


As the projected light paints the image and contrasts the darkness, the greys of liminal space are also expressed. Together the spaces in between are able to form a language that exists to communicate unspoken ideas such as illness that are disadvantaged within a patriarchal structure.

Analogue photography can be used as an important tool to develop a language that involves a tactile and grounding experience and go beyond the words that are made under patriarchal influence. Connecting to the ideas of Hélène Cixous, who writes about how there is no way for a woman to adequately verbalise personal experiences without becoming more focused on utilising the body. This interlocks with the ideas in Virginia Woolf’s piece On Illness (Woolf, 1993) that speaks about how there is a lack of ways to express the experience of illness. Also established is a link with the liminal and how there is a space that is between words and between expressions.

To build this language that lays in the liminal, I use empathic allowance and study artists such as Chris Kraus and Sophie Calle who work with diaristic formats to create omission and enable space for empathy to be manifested. This all feeds into my work with installation to create artwork that communicates my experiences with liminal illness and also make an intimate and mindful space.

The desired outcome of this practice-led research project has been to contribute to this communication of liminal language by developing projection installation and analogue photographic work. Unpacking the intricate theoretical concepts and the process of creation also acts as a mechanism for healing during the experience of being an ill woman. Alongside my research, I have explored experimental analogue photography as a tactile and mindful process of creation to produce installation work that acts as a way to communicate my personal experience with illness within the patriarchy, and its relation to liminality that sits in between binaries and spaces.

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