Matters of the Body

The Matters of the Body (MOB) Cluster engages with culture’s capacity to communicate material conditions of gender, sexuality, feminism, trans and queerness. The cluster focuses its research on questions of the representation of gender and sexual identity in historical and contemporary arts practices. It produces individual and collaborative creative research outputs advancing knowledge in the areas of gender, sexuality, queerness and conditions of embodied identity.

Creative Encounters with Natasha Davis (8 and 8 March 2016)

Theatre at VCA and Matters of the Body Research Cluster are hosting a series of events with the UK-based, award-winning performance practitioner, Natasha Davis ( Graduate students and staff are invited to attend the following happenings:

Creative Workshop: Body, Object, Text

March 8th 2016, 2-5pm in the Movement Studio, 2nd floor, Theatre building, Dodds St. (please note entrance round the side of building while renovations in process). 

This practical workshop will explore an interdisciplinary approach to creating performance material using body, movement, sound, text and objects. Through a series of playful exercises, which will include solo, pair and group work, we will explore how performative material can be created and shaped using a variety of disciplines. The workshop will be created in the spirit of play, knowledge sharing and collaborative experiment. The content will reflect the interests of the artist Natasha Davis, but will also respond to the interests of the workshop participants. Please wear comfortable clothes.

Creative Engagement: A Conversation with Natasha Davis

March 9th 2016, 6.30-8pm in the  Founders Gallery, Elizabeth Murdoch Building, VCA.

Join Natasha and Dr Elin Nicholson (McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the VCA) for a research seminar on Natasha’s most recent work, in addition to her creative practices on immigration and the displaced body.

About Natasha’s Work: Staging Trauma

Natasha Davis will discuss how she has used body and memory in her interdisciplinary performance and visual practice to create politically engaged material related to exile and migration, based on auto/biography, mythology, historical facts and fiction. She will specifically focus on her recent practice: the trilogy of works Rupture, Asphyxia and Suspended, as well as performances Internal Terrains and Teeth Show. Natasha will use images, films and sounds to look into the ways she has explored personal experience to create work dealing with the political categories of crossing borders and embodied memories. She will also illustrate how she uses repetitive returns to the past and placing her body out of balance, as well as how she mixes performance with social studies and medicine to explore the politics and poetry of the trauma of displacement as rooted in loss and liberation. The presentation will be concerned with how practice can explore journeys in place and time, alternating between forgetting and remembering, vanishing and rematerialising.

Natasha Davis has presented her performances, films and installations in the United Kingdom, where she is based, and internationally. Natasha has recently completed her PhD and teaches on the Masters in International Performance Research at the University of Warwick, UK. She has delivered talks and workshops across the world. Her practice and research have been included in several publications and a book about her recent work is available through Live Art Development Agency’s Unbound.

Elin Nicholson is currently a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow (2015-18) at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Elin completed her doctoral dissertation on contemporary Palestinian theatre as cultural resistance against both the Israeli military occupation and the more conservative elements of Palestinian society, in 2014. Elin’s current research focuses on refugee theatre in Australia as creating ‘exceptional spaces’ in a revised version of Agamben’s ‘state of exception’. She is investigating the extent to which spatial practices of theatre can enable cultural resistance against a neoliberal government with strict policies against refugee communities. 

Materialising Feminism
Caroline Phillips

19 to 27 February, 2016,  Margaret Lawrence Gallery

Materialising Feminism investigates relationality as a feminist practice through materiality, process and engagement. This exhibition includes sculptural works made of recycled and industrial materials that combine with handmade and craft based processes to enact new possibilities for the minimalist object. Modalities of separation, contact and connection are proposed as the interval between polarities - discursive, material and active – existing as the very condition of difference and relation.

A series of investigations in philosophy and the curatorial have supported the studio method, materialising artefacts and enabling dialogue that converges in a feminist methodology of relatedness. Reading the object and the interval as materialising difference and connection generates new ways to consider feminist art practice.

This exhibition comprises part of the VCA School of Art 2016 PhD Program.

Lecture, This Way

8-13 October 2015 - VCA Flat

Lecture, This Way is an installation by Loo Zihan, the 2015 Asialink Artist in Residence, responding to MOB member Kim Donaldson's From the Lecture - A Reminder of Life (2006) and objects from the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. Sited at the VCA flat, Loo makes his own private space public. As a result he puts into question the role of time and its relationship to the subject/object and the notion of the caregiver for the patient, the artwork and the archive.

When: Opening celebrations, Thursday 8 October, 5.00pm-7.00pm (current until 13 October)
Where: VCA Flat, cnr of Dodds Street and Southbank Boulevard
Hours: Daily 2.00pm-5.00pm

AS IF: Echoes from the Women's Art Register

2 October-7 November 2015 - West Space, Melbourne

MOB member and graduate researcher Caroline Phillips is working with the Women's Art Register, West Space and the Melbourne Fringe Festival on the curated projection program 'AS IF: Echoes of the Women's Art Register' with Dr Juliette Peers. This project includes the one-off event 'AS IF: Echoes Workshop - Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon' at the State Library of Victoria on Saturday 31 October. Further details here.

When: Opening celebration, Thursday 1 October, 6.00pm-8.00pm
Where: West Space, Melbourne
Exhibition Dates: 2 October-7 November

Technotopia Tours

6-8 October 2015 - City of Melbourne

As part of Performing Mobilities, wear an orange safety vest as the concealed working parts of Melbourne open up. MOB member Kim Donaldson will be your guide as you see food scraps from Degraves Street turned into fertiliser, the plumbing infrastructure under the Melbourne City Council and the City Baths and the staff in The Press Club kitchen prepare lunch. Six tours in all: The Plumbing Tour, The Working Building Tour, The Kitchen Tour, The Librarian's Tour, The Grand Organ Tour, The Recycling Tour.

For more details please contact Kim Donaldson

The Feminist Performance Art of Brown Council

MOB member Sarah French's article on the feminist performance art of Sydney video and performance collaboration Brown Council and an interview with Diana Smith from Brown Council is in the latest issue of the Double Dialogues journal.

f generation: feminism, art, progressions

October 2015 - George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne

f generation: feminism, art, progressions is a project devised by MOB member and graduate researcher Caroline Phillips, Veronica Caven Aldous (MCA alumna) and Dr Juliette Peers. The project is multidisciplinary, involving students, artists and major theorists and commentators. f generation: feminism, art, progressions is a contemporary polylogue of responses that opens out history-making into many voices.

f generation: feminism, art, progressions will be on show at George Paton Gallery in October. 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of International Women’s Year and the series of groundbreaking feminist art activities that took place at the gallery, including a renowned lecture by international feminist curator Lucy Lippard, artist slide shows, consciousness-raising sessions, and exhibitions. This project explores the continuum that is feminism art today by inviting open responses in a variety of forms.

When: Closing celebration, Wednesday 14 October, 5.00pm-7.00pm
Where: George Paton Gallery
Exhibition Dates: 7-6 October

Corpus is Opus

3 August 2015 - The Oratory, Abbotsford Convent

MOB co-leader Tonié Field performed a free concert of solo classical guitar, filmed live for a video about 'gender diversity meets classical music'. The concert featured the video track 'Asturias' as well as fiery, beautiful, sensual and popular solos from Spain, Brazil and North America. More information about the event here.

Melbourne Social Equity Institute Funding

MOB co-leader Alyson Campbell has been awarded Melbourne Social Equity Institute Interdisciplinary Seed funding to work with Wilin Centre colleagues Richard Frankland and Jacob Boehme, and Jennifer Audsley from the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity on cultural protocols for working with HIV and performance in rural Indigenous communities. 


4 April - 19 April 2015 - Melbourne's Living Museum of the West, Maribyrnong

Relatedness is an exhibition presented by MOB member and PhD candidate Caroline Phillips and VCA graduate Catherine Johnstone. Two artists explore the breadth of potential to be found in a larger world. Caroline Phillips' sculptural works use industrial and found materials to reveal interconnections between site and materials, drawing attention to the material nature of relationships. Catherine Johnstone uses video and installation to engage in a dialogue with Muslim women, exploring perceptions of identity, and relationships of reflexivity.

Film Night: Anna Helme

14 April 2015 - Grant Street Theatre, VCA

The MOB Research Cluster presented a film night featuring a program of short films by new member Anna Helme. A new PhD candidate at VCA, Anna is a filmmaker, video artist and media activist. She has written and directed short films and documentaries including Continental Drift (15 mins, 2012) which screened at Frameline San Francisco, MIFF, and airing on SBS TV. She presented this work, alongside a program of other short films, including the recent work MyMy (14 mins, 2014) screening during the month of April at MQFF.

Topologies of Sexual Difference

9 December - 12 December 2014 - George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne

An exhibition presented as part of the Luce Irigaray Circle Conference in Melbourne, featured MOB members Caroline Phillips and Grace Pundyk. Conceptual and material practices in sculpture, painting, photography, text and video engagde in powerful dialogue with the strategies, metaphors, spaces and places envisaged within and beyond Irigaray's work to manifest new discourses and expand our ways of seeing and living sexual difference. The exhibition was launched by Professor Su Baker, Director at the Victorian College of the Arts. 

Luce Irigaray Circle Conference

10 December - 12 December 2014 - RMIT University

The Communications, Politics and Culture Research Centre at RMIT University, with the support of the VCA (including MOB members), hosted an interdisciplinary conference inspired by Luce Irigaray and her thinking of sexual difference. This was the seventh meeting of the Luce Irigaray Circle. The overall theme for the conference was 'Topologies of Sexual Difference'. The conference program and supporters of the event can be found online.

The Trouble With Harry

17 October - 9 November 2014 - Northcote Town Hall

MOB member Alyson Campbell directed the Australian premiere of The Trouble With Harry by Lachlan Philpott, as part of the Melbourne Festival. Award-winning playright Philpott probes ideas of gender identity, perversion and complicity with this new work, based on the extraordinary true story of the 'Man-Woman' murder that shocked  turn-of-the-century Sydney. Rave reviews were included in The Age, The Australian and TimeOut Melbourne.


19 July - 25 July 2014 - City Square, Melbourne

Using performance to consider HIV and Transmission, an experimental pilot project between the Victorian College of the Arts, Positively Fabulous+ and Living Positive Victoria, was led by MOB member Alyson Campbell. GL RY was a free public installation and performance event that took place as part of the cultural program for the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. As a project, GL RY takes the idea of the hole as a metaphor for transmission and transformation: what histories, secrets, stigma, information, art and affects might slip through a small hole?

Transgressive Teaching

29 March 2014 - Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney

Cluster members Alyson Campbell and Caroline Phillips were invited to present at the Transgressive Teaching Seminar at Sydney College of the Arts. Steered by academics and curators, the Contemporary Art and Feminism (CAF) cluster at Sydney College of the Arts/University of Sydney responds to the groundswell of engagement with feminism's role in contemporary art-making and discourses.

Bringing together a national community of artists, writers and researchers the seminar and workshop Trangressive Teaching covered topics as diverse as historical archive, contemporary curriculum, feminist pedagogies and the intersectionality of performance and aesthetics with teaching. Alsyon and Caroline spoke alongside presenters such as Helen Grace, Catriona Moore, Bec Dean and others showcasing the VCA Matters of the Body cluster as an innovative and trailblazing example of interdisciplinary feminist research.  

Cultural Representations of HIV and AIDS in Australian Contemporary Theatre and Live Performance, Public Panel

26 March, 2014 - Space 28, Southbank

VCA Theatre in collaboration with the Matters of the Body Research Cluster hosted a public panel session exploring the importance of cultural representations of HIV and AIDS in the performing arts, and asking what the arts can do at a time when public interest in the epidemic is declining. The panel featured leading artists and thinkers:

  • Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow at La Trobe University and a world authority on HIV/AIDS and homosexuality
  • Daniel Brace from Living Positive Victoria
  • Choreographer Phillip Adams and his collaborator multidisciplinary artist Andrew Hazewinkel
  • Theatre-makers Noel Jordan and Maude Davey, talking about approaches to the work with the students
  • Paul Woodward, an artist and researchers who is writing about the performativity of HIV disclosure for his PhD at Monash University.

Technotopia Tours Feminist Art Bus

8 March 2014 - Melbourne

On International Women’s Day 2014, Kim Donaldson and Caroline Phillips joined forces to present the Technopia Tours Feminist Art Bus. As a workshop on wheels the tour began with an Inez de Vega performance followed by a visit to the Great Petition sculpture by Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee. A conversation about feminism was held on board the bus with Justine Makdessi, Nat Thomas, Laura Castagnini, Lyndal Jones, Vicki Kinai and Dot Kett. The tour crossed the Westgate Bridge to Techno Park Studios and a CoUNTess lecture by Elvis Richardson and the return trip to the CBD was accompanied by a performance by Ebony Gulliver and Kalinda Vary. Back in the City the tour concluded with a Kate Just Safe banner walk through the nightclub district of Melbourne.

The F Word

19 October 2013 - Latrobe Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo

The F word is a unique, collaborative research project that emerges from the resurgent interest in feminist art practice in Australia today. With a focus on regional centres the project builds and develops dialogue and community between regions, generations and cultures.

An afternoon workshop and panel discussion was presented, exploring the issues most relevant to regional feminist artists including artists Jill Orr and Filomena Coppola, and historian and writer Juliette Peers. A workshop on "How to get a great idea!" facilitated by performance/video artist Inez de Vega was also held.

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