Stirred Poetry performed as a quartet at Wonder Women’s launch, called What is She Wearing, run by Instigate Arts in March 2016.
We were incredibly honoured to be part of the event, which was a live response to art and the theme of self expression.
We had an amazing time, and we loved the responses people gave to our work. We were motivated by the outfits we had been wearing when we’d had extreme reactions from people, whether this was strangers on the street or friends or lovers.
We brought items of these outfits, such as skirts and jackets and hats, and attached our poem-stories to them. We then showcased each item with our piece in Gallery 7 at Manchester Art Gallery to a huge amazing audience! We then left the clothes, and their stories, in a suitcase for people to experience in their own time (like this beautiful group!).
The groups that gathered around the suitcase afterwards were really moving in how much they identified with our stories, they were reading them aloud to each other again, commenting on the stories, how their own experiences fit with ours. We felt like it was truly a collective experience of shaming, fighting and triumph we showcased through our stories and our threads!
What is she wearing as a phrase evokes how people are judged and shamed by their clothing, at its most extreme the length of a person’s skirt will affect the jury’s ruling in a rape case, with less empathy towards the survivor and more prejudice towards them, ie they deserved it mentality. This event was an occasion to challenge the restrictions women’s bodies and clothes are forced into in order to conform to other people’s judgments. Through our feminist acts of celebrating our bodies and ownership of them, we hope to reassert women’s rights to be safe in whatever clothes, where ever they are.
The performance culminated in covering our faces in red lipstick, spiraling from the lips to the entire face (in Anna’s case). This got a brilliant audience reaction. For some of us, this event challenged our own internal body shaming, ie first time of showing hairy arms in public, displaying bodies that did not fit the template women are expected to.
We reject standard notions of what is attractive by ending the performance by dressing each other in all the clothes we could find and saying, ‘You look lovely today!’. We have to thank Jack Nicholls for his direction during rehearsals which helped us solidify our actions, and a massive thank you to Instigate Arts for offering us this space to communicate our message and explore these incredibly important topics.