Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Visual Arts


Professor Christine Sprengler

Second Advisor

Professor John Hatch


This thesis analyses the performative quality of materials and processes that suggest corporeal presence in the absence of the artist’s body in the works of Ana Mendieta and Janine Antoni. Mendieta and Antoni’s works are performative because they use their bodies in private performances that record their active process in imprints and gestures that stand in for the body’s absence in relics or souvenirs. Precedents such as Abstract Expressionism, Fluxus, Happenings, Conceptualism, Minimalism, Performance, Body, Land and Process Art are discussed to provide a broader art historical context. The performative use of the artist’s body and the significance of its absence are examined through the lenses of feminism and the phenomenological theory of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Drew Leder. In the absence of the artist’s body, organic, olfactory and ephemeral materials and processes recorded on the relics and souvenirs reference the body and encourage audience participation by engaging them sensorially and corporeally



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