Third Area: A Feminist Reading of Performance at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts in the 1970s

Eleanor Roberts

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Focussing on the ‘long 1970s’ (1968-1980), this thesis offers a new account of the emergence of performance forms, including Happenings, participatory art, performance art, and performances for the camera, in visual art and related contexts at the ICA. The research is driven by two central aims: firstly, to create space for discourse about women artists and feminist concerns in art in the UK, and secondly, to build a feminist methodology and historiography that allows for a re-thinking of performance events and approaches to interpreting them. My research involves methods drawn from performance studies, history of art and visual studies, cultural history, and feminist theory.
Chapters are organised around works by important UK-based artists including Carlyle Reedy, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and David Medalla, as well as international visitors Carolee Schneemann and Charlotte Moorman. Initially focussing on historical ‘recovery’ of performances by women artists in order to challenge received or dominant histories of performance, I then shift over the course of the thesis towards reflecting on feminist implications and effects of my historiographical approach.
Here the ICA functions as an organising principle rather than a central subject, and so while research begins with the ICA Collection held at Tate Archive, the scope of the study is also broadened to include other sites and archival repositories. As a methodological counterpoint to this, I also question and critique the limits of institutional and archival representation, and conduct interviews with artists and arts professionals.
Considered through the lens of each case study, I argue that the 1970s, as a period which saw new performance forms emerge dialogically alongside feminist practice, is a rich area of research for thinking about pre-histories of live art in the UK, as well as questions of identity, identification, and diversity which resonate into the present.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Queen Mary, University of London
Thesis sponsors
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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