Unknowability and Collaborative Creative/Critical Practice
This presentation brings together a feminist scholar and an artist who have worked together on two projects, including a participatory art installation on unknowing. They will discuss how unknowability figures in their own work and what it enables.
Mystery. Inscrutability. Obscurity. Opacity.
In dwelling with these words, feminist scholars and artists might be in danger of stepping into a claustrophobic history of cultural formations that have authorised misogyny and racism. But, beginning from our practices of writing and creation, as well as from an understanding of the violence equally perpetuated by claims to full knowledge, we choose to explore how not knowing can create openings and enable new perspectives and – paradoxically – new knowledges.
Ilya Parkins will briefly outline the contours of her five-year research project on figures of feminine unknowability in the early twentieth century. She will also discuss how unknowing functions in research, and how she has embraced this as an explicitly feminist methodological principle in her scholarly work.
Lara Haworth will talk about how unknowability figures in her art practice, particularly as it pertains to moments of unscripted, accidental interaction between installation, site and participants. She will discuss the mechanics of working with unknowability: ensuring the work is grounded in a reality, so as to make the little shocks of surprise and unknowing land in a pleasing, unfurling, way. She will also talk about the poetics of not knowing. What does a space know, or not know? Are people’s responses truly unknowable, or can they be, in some ways, predicted, worked on, drawn out? What about me? How will I be?
Ilya and Lara will conclude by briefly discussing a new collaboration they are beginning. By exploring what the mysterious beginning phase of new work can generate, they start to work toward a temporality of unknowing.
Ilya Parkins is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus in Kelowna, Canada. She is the author of Poiret, Schiaparelli, and Dior: Fashion, Femininity and Modernity (Berg, 2012) and co-editor of Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion (University Press of New England, 2011). Her work on femininity, feminist theory, fashion and media has also appeared in such journals as Feminist Review, Australian Feminist Studies, Time and Society, Biography, and French Cultural Studies. She collaborated with artist Lara Haworth on a participatory installation work called Talk to Someone You Don’t Know about Something You Don’t Know, which was produced in both Canada and the UK. Her research on unknowable femininities has been supported by a four-year grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Lara Haworth is an artist and a writer. She has shown her work at galleries and festivals including Koganecho Bazaar, Yokohama, Japan; Begehungen No 10, Chemnitz, Germany; Buzzcut, Glasgow, UK; Ausform, Bristol, UK; BAC, London, UK; Belluard International Festival, Switzerland; Camden People’s Theatre, London, UK; Library of Birmingham, UK; and City Arcadia, Coventry. Her collaboration with Ilya Parkins, Talk to Someone You Don’t Know About Something You Don’t Know, recently showed at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, following a successful run at the Atrium Gallery in London. Last year she also premiered a new work, The Office of the Quarry, at the Pafos City of Culture 2017 showcase in Cyprus. She has had fiction and non-fiction published in books, magazines and journals such as ACME, Lake, Theorizing Visual Studies and Visual Verse.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Ilya and Lara's collaboration.