Menu Close

Feminist Performance Forensics

“Feminist Performance Forensics”

Natalie Alvarez and Keren Zaiontz

From the special issue, Feminisms Now in Contemporary Theatre Review, co-edited by Sarah Gorman, Geraldine Harris and Jen Harvie

This article investigates an emergent strategy among women performance artists and art-activists who undertake a ‘feminist performance forensics’: the use of performance installations to develop bodies of evidence in the face of systemic government denial of its fiduciary duties, making visible those who have been rendered invisible by state violence and neglect. A feminist performance forensics works alongside families and community activists, undertaking a form of grassroots jurisprudence with the recogni- tion that placing redressive action solely in the hands of state institutions risks perpetrating state hegemonic power. We examine a cluster of works by women artists that best exemplify how a feminist performance forensics mobilizes the political potential of performance as a form that harnesses the etymological connotations of ‘forensics’ – from the Latin forensis, ‘in open court, public’ or ‘place of assembly’ – using the installation as a site that ‘makes public’ the evidence necessary to hold governments to account. These strategies include the explicit and durational use of the artists’ own bodies and the bodies of spectators to make the case against the abuses of the state.

A still from Gardens Speak by Tania El Khoury. Photo: Jesse Hunniford.