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Women and gender studies

For this assignment, compare and contrast the videos highlighting the work of two performance artists:

Kate Bornstein, Adventures in the Gender Trade, and
Coco Fusco, Couple in the Cage
These videos were included in the Lesson 9 instructional materials (if needed go back to the Lesson 9 Lecture Pages (Links to an external site.) and review those now). As you are viewing the videos, think about what each artist is critiquing in the piece that you have seen. Can you find something specifically in common or in contrast in these works (for example: a “disruptive” aspect of each work that is handled either in a similar way, or in a completely different way)? This commonality can be in terms of content (a common ‘theme’); or, you can focus on a common technique of performance (for example, relationship to audience; the nature of the “script”; costuming; setting).

If you would like detailed guidance on how to approach this assignment, please see the Writing Assignment 2: Additional Guidance section before beginning the assignment.

Assignment Requirements

Your paper should be between 600 and 800 words in length and include at least three main points – see #2 below for details about main points (that’s anywhere from 3-4 double-spaced pages, depending on the font you use.)
The essay should include a clear thesis, a clear argument with supporting facts and/or details, and a conclusion. In your analysis, you must include:
a discussion of at least two specific scenes in each video, which you must cite with the time range (minute and second timestamp, such as 10:32 – 11:05).
an inclusion of at least one quotation from each artist (again, with proper citation, either time stamp or page number) from remarks by both artists, found either within the video (Bornstein) or in the written material you were assigned (Fusco).
a citation of information from both artists’ own websites—find something that will enhance your argument about their work.
Any sources used in your paper should be cited properly, using Modern Language Association (MLA) format.

Writing Assignment: Additional Guidance

Some detailed guidance: You have watched two 30-40 minute videos featuring the work of two contemporary performance artists: Coco Fusco,Couple in the Cage, and Kate Bornstein, Adventures in the Gender Trade. In the lesson you also learned about performance art, and about activism, while throughout the semester we have been discussing the role of feminist analysis in deconstructing cultural assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and other social categories. Both Fusco and Bornstein are performance artists who take on the task of cultural disruption, and/or “deconstruction.”

Furthermore, each “performance artist”—as the term suggests—also uses the notion of “performance” to achieve that disruption. Think back on the idea of “gender performativity”: as individuals, we might perform gender in compliance with gender norms or “scripting”; if we don’t “fit” that mold, however, we can also perform it in oppositional or disruptive ways. These artists literalize the “performance” aspect of our individual and social identities.

By self-consciously enacting alternative or non-normative positions, they also challenge their audiences—including us—to think about our responses to these performances. We find ourselves asking questions such as these:

Are we disturbed by what we see?
Do we want to participate ourselves?
How would we participate?
Do we even understand what’s going on?
Are we supposed to “get it”—or is the point not so much “getting it,” whatever “it” is, or is the point to experience the amusement, or disgust, or confusion, or the judgement?
Is the point, in other words, to be made aware of the process of feeling and witnessing our own assumptions and ways of responding to “otherness” exposed?
For this writing assignment, think about what each artist is critiquing in the piece that you have seen. Can you find something specifically in common or in contrast in these works? A “disruptive” aspect of each work that is handled either in a similar way, or in a completely different way? This commonality can be in terms of content (a common ‘theme’); or, you can focus on a common technique of performance (for example, relationship to audience; the nature of the “script”; costuming; setting).

Remember, a good compare and contrast essay will have a thesis that identifies a specific point of comparison or contrast; and it will indicate HOW (through what image or technique or production value) the comparison/contrast will be shown. For example: Both Kate Bornstein and Coco Fusco focus on the idea of social performance and “acting” in their pieces, but they present the possibility of “agency” (the ability to engage with and act to control one’s situation) very differently. Bornstein focuses on agency and empowerment, while Fusco’s production offers little prospect of agency or power for the main characters. By examining the interaction of the actors with the audience, we get contrasting notions of who (actors or audience) is “in charge.” The essay would then go on to discuss that actor and/or audience in one work, and then in the other, citing specific instances of interaction. A following paragraph would draw the contrast out.

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