The Hours; in which each movement is the same everyday

Notes from a paper, Female portraits in the Film “The Hours” followed by notes on the referenced Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory by Judith Butler, as they relate to my studio practice and ongoing thinking.

Female portraits in the Film “The Hours:

• Main goal is to understand if and how women have agency in the way they perform in society in a certain time and space setting.

• The motif of silence is repetitive in the movie. And, as Richard in the film points to Clarissa that she is “giving the parties in order to cover the silence”, it leads us to assume that silence is used as a sign for an undiscovered or imaginary self that everybody is struggling to find out. Virginia Woolf writes “every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that everyone was unreal in one way; much more real in another” (Woolf, 1968:187-188), so the main assumption of the predicament of being a woman could be lack of individuality and lack of freedom to choose in a society where the norms seem to be imposed upon individuals, therefore they seem limiting their potential.

…how the three characters tried to fit and perform their role. …

• While the paper works from dualism, my work (Everyone’s a stranger to me now) manifests multiplicity / repetition of the same / similar.

• And as there were a lot of relevancies to binary opposition and clear references to Descartes dualism, we saw it relevant to take this theory as a starting point for the Woolf character’s analysis and also for the developing of an argument that cultural dualism exists and it is strongly embedded in any Western culture.

• Original Descartes dualism was rejected but it left consequences in any cultural domain will it be a language, perception or, as we will discuss in our project, – binary opposition between a woman and a man. The scholars like Cranny Francis, Waring, Stavropoulos and Kirkby in their book Gender Studies (2003) outline Descartes theory as being leading in describing and analyzing gender in Western societal environments. And the theory is described as being a prehistory to Judith Butler’s argument about gender as performance. Therefore, we see that Descartes and Butler’s theories within this project can go in line, and to explain and complement each other while analyzing female characters in the film The Hours. Also, Descartes doubtful presentation of sensory system will help us to clarify why sensations and emotional states seem to be overlooked while they could be seen as crucial for satisfactory human existence.

Relating to Everyone’s a Stranger to me now: Regarding the binary mind / body duality – the art work is physical, sensory, created with the body, performative, about touch on the face and cloth (skin) of canvas, imagery of the closed eyes may suggest mindfulness, meditation, sleep, rest, pain, prayer, the mind’s eye etc. Also, suggests stillness, silence?

* new word: proprioception – perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body.

Everyone's a stranger to me now table detail low res

• Butler talks about ‘speech acts’, illocutionary gestures, forceful words, commanding, assertive expression of language, which are forming a social reality through these verbal gestures, n.b. in as much as social bonds are created by social / relational /physical acts, as well as language (a moral bond).

• According to Butler, gender is not something a person is but something a person does, that is to say, “the stylized repetition of acts through time” (Butler, 1998). She defines this behaviour through the word performance and acting. Therefore, a subject embodies a gender through the repetition of a series of acts in time, which are consolidated by an individual’s enactment of gender. Drawing on Simone de Beauvoir’s assertion one is not born a woman, rather one becomes a woman, through acts and repeated performances, that gender is not a stable identity, but a locus of agency from which various acts proceed. Stylised acts, from a stylised body. These are the mundane daily acts/rituals that form the performance of life, gestures, movements, enactments that together constitute the illusion of the self.

• This appearance of the self is a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment, which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves come to believe and to perform the mode of belief, it is possible through new acts and gestures to subvert that construction.

Thinking on my work; the imagery of the face and individuals linked through parallel stories, gestures through time, presenting the body, performing through time. Collective woman – individual moments – individual women.

In conclusion, Butler says:

“Gender is what is put on, invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure, but if this continuous act is mistaken for a natural or linguistic given, power is relinquished to expand the cultural field bodily through subversive performances of various kinds.”

• In popular culture there are universal experiences shared by women, such as the #metoo movement, which highlighted the magnitude of sexual harassment that feature in the lives of almost all women globally. However, womens’ experiences of such harassment vary across a spectrum that includes difference in sexual identity and preference, skin colour, ethnic background, social economic factors and multiple intersections of power and inequality. The universal and individual inhabit and contest the same space, adding more complexity to understanding womens’ experience and performance of the ‘self’.


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