Preston, Julieanna. thirsty stuff [performative installation]. Lucy Irigaray Circle Conference and Topologies of Sexual Difference Exhibition, George Patton Gallery, University of Melbourne, AUS, 2014.


thirsty stuff was a performative work evolving over the course of the three-day exhibition and conference event. Imagine a trestle table covered with a white paper cloth and adorned with 100 clear glasses bearing a variety of shapes, volumes, clarity and crystalline transparency. Filled each morning with ice, the glasses registered the heat of the day, the thirst of the crowd and the capacity of glass to sweat- all porous facets of the simple act of offering a glass of water, the fluid of life and likely the most political substance on the planet.  Imagine entering the gallery, seeing the glasses of cool water and then hearing the table emit sounds as you approached, sounds that changed and intensified as you draw nearer and then subside as you became more familiar. This table was fitted with smart sound-sensing technology to charge the relational exchange to the next degree.

This creative work joins a host of recent works that search for the vitality of materials in a practice that forms relations between art, politics and feminist philosophy and, in many cases, building construction.  This hybrid network has most recently taken the shape as performative installations with interior finish materials such as gypsum board, paint, timber flooring, window-glass and wool carpet. Each work acts as a poetic provocation to elicit difference and support individuality in the face of collective knowledge, most specifically common everyday circumstances, bodily functions and interactions. The greatest point of difference resides in the works’ aim to rebuke assumptions about matter as inert - to, with care and respect, make note of matter’s agency if even in its extreme stillness.(1)

My practice finds inspiration from the philosophy of Luce Irigaray, drawing primarily from her essays “The ‘Mechanics’ of Fluids”(2) and ‘i love to you’(3) as a basis for approaching spatial fluidity as a metaphor for sexual difference, and as a material and temporal condition. These texts frame the proposed creative work as an ordinary act of gifting, reaching out with no intent to over power or possess the other.  And yet, like other recent works, thirsty stuff advanced these concepts in light of notions developing amongst new materialism and post-humanist philosophy in an attempt to provoke, defend and champion the liveness of matter. In this way I am crediting the influence that the recent works by Elizabeth Grosz(4), Donna Haraway(5) and Zoe Sophia(6) have brought to this project, each of them navigating territories of thought touching at the heart of the proposal’s commitment to extend feminist ambitions of freedom and liberation to other creatures and substances of the earthly kingdom.

(1)  For examples of this recent work, please view my vimeo site
(2) Luce Irigaray. “The ‘Mechanics’ of Fluids”. In This Sex Which is Not One, translated by Catherine Porter. New York: Cornell University Press, 1985.
(3) Luce Irigaray. I Love to You: Sketch of A Possible Felicity in History. New York: Routledge, 1996.
(4) Elizabeth Grosz. Becoming undone: Darwinian reflections on life, politics, and art. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
(5) Donna J. Haraway. When species meet. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
(6) Sofia, Zoë. “Container Technologies.” Hypatia 15/2 (2000): 181-201.


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