AbstractsWomens Studies

Women's silence : in the space of words and images

by Annette. Iggulden

Institution: Deakin University
Department: School of Contemporary Arts
Year: 2002
Keywords: Silence; Women artists; Women - Communication
Record ID: 1032054
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30023613


My thesis is made up of words and images. This study investigates the way in which silence operates productively within and between the two modes of communication. I suggest that in the process of changing words into images or scripto-visual art-practice, the silence in women's lives can be articulated. I argue that women draw on the generative qualities of silence to create forms of speech that override the cultural constructions of gender which have placed them within the space of ‘mute’ silence. To gain an historical perspective of this practice by women, I consider the lives of medieval nuns within religious enclosure and their work with words and images in the illuminated manuscript. I make a comparative study of original illuminated manuscripts, focussing mainly on visual language and locating aspects of the work closest to my own art-practice: the visual treatment of the space and inter-textual components of the page or folio. This project does not include an examination of miniatures or historiated initials. Rather, its aim is to identify and compare the use of other aesthetic devices available to the medieval scribe/artist through which they might have interacted with the text. I suggest links between verbal and visual performances of language and the repetition, or copying of texts by medieval nuns, as a means of female embodiment of words and their spaces. From the outcomes of my studio investigations and my consideration of other contemporary feminist art practices, I demonstrate how women artists may ‘re-write’ the text and ‘speak’ their silence through visual language and the acts of writing, drawing and painting the words of others. Through my engagement with feminist critical theory, the work of medieval scholars, original illuminated manuscripts and my studio research, I propose that scripto-visual practice remains particularly significant for women despite the differences between the medieval period and our own. As a generative practice, it negotiates some of the societal constraints on women's speech and visibility, because its language is ‘silent and disembodied’ from the image of woman constructed by male discourse. It is a form of speech that acknowledges as it defies the social and cultural conditions that shaped its necessity, articulating an alternative voice of women in the space of words and images.