Dale, Nicola ORCID logoORCID: (2023) Self-Supporting. [Performance]


‘Self-Supporting’ is a performance by Nicola Dale commissioned by The Hepworth Wakefield for the survey exhibition ‘If Not Now When – Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain 1960-2022’ The exhibition project revisited research into women artists working in the expanding field of sculpture undertaken in the late 1980s by Griselda Pollock and Lorna Green as the basis for a present-day comparative study. It recruited a new cohort of contemporary sculptors working in Britain. Research Process: Dale studied anonymised responses to The Hepworth Wakefield’s ‘Women in Sculpture’ survey. She noted that variations of particular actions appeared across the cohort – e.g. understanding, balancing, rewarding, struggling, labouring, adapting and self-supporting. These common experiences became Dale’s own actions for the performance, i.e. in ‘becoming’ a self-supporting sculpture, she had to perform these actions in order to visualise a shared understanding of what it feels like to be a female sculptor. Research Insights: Dale’s insight was to understand how to ‘collaborate’ with anonymous artists. The focus on their stated actions informed a visual metaphor that stretched Dale’s own understanding of sculpture as performance. Although superficially ‘solo’ it gathered together in one place the actions of female sculptors across time and space. This may be understood as a feminist phenomenological approach. Dissemination: ‘Self-supporting’ was performed on the opening night of ‘If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain, 1960-2022’, as well as at the closing event of its subsequent tour to the Saatchi Gallery, London. Moving image and photographic documentation was shared online via both gallery and artist, as well as being collected as part of the exhibition’s archive (Hepworth Wakefield).

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