And just as Virginia Wolf outlines in A Room of One's Own, the room for manoeuvre in terms of place, time and economic assets are central for all artistic pursuits; artistic practice is implicitly dependent upon socio-economic conditions. And in a social order where the sex/gender system informs the power structure governing those conditions (Lykke, 2009) success in the form of artistic room for manoeuvre is necessarily linked to the author's gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality.
Because no artistic discretion exists outside the discourse my aim is to find cracks, recesses, intervals and dissonances and other contradictions within and between hegemonic discourses. On the basis of my subject position as Woman and queer-feminist, I would like to see if it is possible to make use of all the different types of “failures” within and between the discourses of art. In these areas of in-betweens, I would like to formulate a second or many rooms for artistic manoeuvring.
My interest in how aesthetics is linked to politics has more and more become a part of the process of making artistic decisions. My work has thus evolved to be both an exploration and a staging of these risks of failure, creating a tension and stimulating thought about what failure is; ugly, over-whimsical, personal, incomprehensible, educational, political and tasteless.
When I investigate these markers for failure by using my own body in my artwork, I open up for a kind of collapse between myself and my work. My work precedes the collapse, from a basic understanding that the distance between me and my work remains in an insurmountable constant state: the collapse is only apparent. I am fascinated by a type of fear-of-contact this collapse evokes, in particular which notions of good taste are associated with this fear.
Much in the same way as the French culture-sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues that taste is marked by class, in my work with Peggy-Sue, when presenting my project on the Swedish art scene using white working-class markers, I have experienced that it is not unproblematic to discuss failure in this way. These markers form such a strong connotation of a certain taste that I have noted how the collapse between my work and myself as an artist affects how I am perceived as an artist. This cross-slip or over-reading of my persona once again presents me with the question of artistic integrity. As a feminist, it is an emancipatory consideration whether or not I should adapt my artistic practice to aesthetic norms.
Something characteristic of the work of Peggy-Sue is how sometimes a performance does not take place: the encounter with the audience occurs offstage so to speak. This creates a situation where the audience, in encountering Peggy-Sue, does not have a clear understanding of how the performance begins or ends. Another aspect of the project is that Peggy-Sue does not always appear or use me and my body, but instead is only the name or an object associated with Peggy-Sue, as for instance when paintings are made in Peggy-Sue’s name. These objects or use only of the name have an intrinsic value; so do the actions that occur in connection with Peggy-Sue (ish) situations.
By examining how predominant discourses in the art scene overlap and reinforce each other, it is possible to find potential shifts and room for alternative readings, in the form of incompleteness and contradictions within and between these discourses. This is well in line with the theoretical inputs I use to further examine how failure can be a form of displacement or criticism of discursive norms.
A discourse perspective automatically involves the understanding of a paradoxical relationship between subject and discourse; the subject reproduces discourses and at the same time the subject is comprehensible only in relation to, and therefore can only exist in relation to the discourses (Wetherell, Taylor, Yates, 2001). Discourses create the subjects and subjects reproduce discourses.
Some who have had an interest in how we can relate to this paradoxical situation, without capitulating to the deterministic aspects this situation suggests, is Judith Butler and Judith Halberstam. According to them, one can consider the so called predictability of the subject within a discourse rather as a position of negotiation with multiple possible outcomes. Butler and Halberstam discuss how we reproduce discourses by citations and how by misquotations we become somewhat incomprehensible within the discourse. Based on misquotations, both in speech and in action, we can find opportunities to change and to increase levels of flexibility within the discourses. Butler is discussing this in terms of displacement strategies or subversive performativity (2007: 78). Halberstam discusses this in terms of failure, passivity, oblivion, silence, etc. and in terms of having an intrinsic value, i.e., that they not only have a value as steps of learning how to be more successful, in a conventional sense. (2011: 88).