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Movie poster of woman in red bathing suit on pink blow-up raft with the title "Pleasure"

Performing Women

Welcome to the digital archives of Performing Women. A collaboration between students in Professor Shayoni Mitra’s seminar THTR 3140, the Digital Humanities Center, the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the collection in these following pages highlight the tensions between women’s work and their traces in archives. The items we present here situate the gendered body as a site of becoming, and the archives as a place for recording. Performance as a doing, gives us ways to access embodied knowledge. It lives in futurity through audience interpretation. We invite you to browse our curation to think through questions of who’s story gets told, and how, and participate in our praxis of collaborative critical art making.

Performing Women interrogates the category of woman as it is mobilized in performance. What does such performance do to our understanding of gender and the body, and particularly, how does the viewing practices  of an audience offer new possibilities for subversion and/or solidarity? Such spectating can happen in the digital medium too, and the lag between the present of a performance, and its critical reception, can offer rich historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding women’s work.

The impetus behind this archive, a collaborative digital humanities project, is to view these curated artifacts in the present. If the living body in fact always already escapes recording, the archive can be seen as a collection of dead objects. The actions of the viewer/researcher are the animating mechanisms through which the body, its record, and its capacity for meaning making are brought forth in present discursive practices. We excavate, record, and recirculate in the digital medium our subject-object contributions, in the hopes of giving space in the public sphere to the performative lives of women.