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What Are You Looking At?
Allyson Clay and Eliza Griffiths, Encounters with the Gaze
Notes Schneider,1 in their negotiation of the terrain of women’s representation, Clay and Griffiths run [t]he risk of visibility that is the risk of any translation—a weaker version of the original script, the appropriation by (economically and artistically) powerful ‘others.’ The payoff of translation (and visibility) is that more people will begin to speak in your tongue (124). Recognizing that (self)representation opens the possibility for repetition with a difference— an alternative ‘disobedient’ representation—Clay and Griffiths willingly and intelligently gamble with women’s images in an attempt at reciprocity with thought-provoking results. Clay asserts a position of subjecthood for women without complicity in their objectification. Her work demonstrates that women must actively define their desire, through the physical mobility of the woman (herself) in the image, and in emphasizing her role as the producer of the image. She acknowledges the impossibility of representing ‘woman,’ but works within this paradox, locating breaks and fissures and playing off absence and presence. Griffiths’ protagonists gaze back to confront the perspectival male gaze and its objectifying tendencies. Though she succeeds in making the viewer question the gendered structure of desire, her transgressive attempt to represent women’s desire is limited, merely reversing ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ roles, stopping short of a more complex and layered investigation. A gaze, a stare, a glance—so much is in the look.
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1. Rebecca Schneider, The Explicit Body in Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 1997).