VIDEO: Body Sculpture challenges perceptions

Award-winning artist Martha Mosse explores perceptions of the female form in a performance piece for the Festival of Chichester.

As Martha explains, Body Sculpture is innovative, challenging and original, exploring how ideas of the perfect female body influence the way we think, feel and present ourselves in the 21st century.

Performance art by Martha Mosse in Pallant House

Performance art by Martha Mosse in Pallant House

Martha presented the piece for her degree show in Brighton last year as a group collaboration; this year, she is sole performer.

“It’s a feminist performance art piece, ” she explains. “It’s an analysis of the struggle for the female body to be perfect. Society asks the female body to be perfect.

“In our society, the female form is asked to look and act in a certain way all the time. I am hoping to reveal what I see as the reality of the female body that is asked to strive for perfection. For me, that reality is the animalistic, grotesque form of a trapped figure. It is an animalistic, despairing body.

“The work is a six-foot-long and two-foot wide and two foot deep, a wooden box with a lid made from flesh-colour spandex, swimming costume material.

“And I am in the box. Through a series of choreographed and improvised movements, I attempt to escape the spandex.

“It is a durational piece that last two hours. People that stay the two hours will see a repeated cycle of movement as the body tries to escape and then the despair as the body realises that it is impossible to escape.”

But is it really impossible to escape? Shouldn’t an intelligent woman be able to ignore society’s daft expectations?

“It is up to the female to ignore it if she wants to or if she can. But it is so ingrained within society and within the female psyche to want to look a certain way in other to impress others that it becomes impossible to escape.

“It begins as outside pressure, but then through generations of being told that you must look a certain way, it becomes something ingrained into the woman’s personal psyche.

“I am trying to encourage women to stand back and look at how they view their own bodies and so be freed from the pressure to look perfect. But I think it depends on the individual. It should be possible if you are surrounded by like-minded people, it will become easier.

“But I do think most women feel it. People often say to me What is the point of you making work like this? You are not fat!’”

But Martha admits that she too has felt the constant pressure to look better, the feeling that you never look good enough: “I am just trying to educate the public about the pressure that is felt by women.

“I think it is natural that as a human being, you want to succeed and be better than someone else, but in a contemporary society there are a few people at the top in beauty and in fashion that have dictated how we should look.

“That ideal is impossible for many women and implausible for every woman.”

Martha, daughter of novelist Kate, is both director and solo performer in Body Sculpture which will be at Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery from midday-2pm on Tuesday, July 9; free admission.