Session 5: Wigs of Wonderment: Performing Race and Gender in the work of moti roti

Speaker: Dorothy Rowe, Senior Lecturer and Programme Convenor in Art History at Roehampton University



Wigs of Wonderment, a performance piece by Keith Khan’s live art group, moti roti, is a self-declared ‘investigation of issues around race and gender, as manifest in hair and beauty’ where the experience of beauty is performed as a ‘sensory journey’ for and by its performer-participants. One of the pivotal ways in which meanings are generated by the project in its various live manifestations is via the emphasis on a one-to-one dialogue between the individual performer and participant in front of a mirror, with no other audience present. The participant, guided by ‘flow co-ordinators’ from room to room, activates the performance by their presence in a particular space (which includes rooms for hair, make-up, perfumes, consultation and massage). Through an emphasis on the sensuousness of visual, auditory and olfactory experiences, set off against the disrupted identities generated by the artifice of masquerade, the project offers opportunities for a creative exploration of identity formation. This talk introduces the audience to the series of themes that structure the interactive CD-ROM version of this performance event.

Further Reading

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity , London and New York: Routledge, 1990

Jones, Amelia and Stephenson, Andrew (eds.), Performing the Body: Performing the Text, London and New York: Routledge, 1999

Mercer, Kobena, ‘Busy in the Ruins of Wretched Fantasia’ in Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire, London, ICA/inIVA, 1995

Rowe, Dorothy, ‘Cultural Crossings: Performing Race and Gender in the work of moti roti’ in Perry, Gill (ed.), Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art: The Visibility of Women’s Practice, Oxford & Boston: Blackwell, 2004