A Room of Her Own

Public performance and audio track: 30 min.

The Premises Gallery, Johannesburg.

The A Room of Her Ownperformance and videoproduced from it form components of the 3rd core narrative of the Dis-Location/Re-Location exhibition (2007-2008). In the works, each persona’s identity formation is traced through her genealogy over time, space, history and geography. Their narratives of displacementtraverse wide geographic and temporal terrain, spanning Victorian England, mid 20th century Eastern Europe, to the Transvaal Republic in southern Africa and postapartheid South Africa. In the 1st

sectionof the soundtrack, extracts from Bertha Marks’s letters are narrativised; in the 2nd, Freda Farber reflects on her childhood memories of leaving Latvia. The 3rd section, representing my narrative, begins with an excerpt from South African Prime Minister BJ Vorster’s ‘We will Fight to the Bitter End’ 1970 speech, followed by protests from the 1976 Soweto uprisingsand jarring sounds of contemporary Johannesburg such as cars hooting, people shouting, dogs barking. These increase in volume until they finally override the classical piano music that underpins all 3 sections.

The dramaturgy plays out in a life-size stage-set of the main bedroom in the Sammy Marks Museum, made by digitally grafting photographs of architectural elements and furniture from the actual room. Throughout the performance, ‘the protagonist’ (myself enacting an amalgam of the 3 personae)is seated in the stage-set demurely stitching aloe leaves into the flesh of her thigh.

The rose-patterned wallpaper of the set is built up into relief with pigmented wax. A cast wax rose is inserted over each two-dimensional rose and the background is modeled into a raised flesh-like surface. During the performance, heat, applied from the back of the set’s aluminiumwall panels, causes the roses to slowly slide down the wall, leaving viscous traces of their paths, as they melt and drop to the floor. The room’s state of ‘becoming’ mirrors the protagonist’s physical and psychological transmutation processes. The movement of the roses and fleshy wallpaper, and their residues, may be seen as metaphors for the shifting of continents and people across the globe, and the temporal distance over a century which is played out during the performance.