In order to articulate the contributions that experimental performance and feminist scholarship on reproduction have already made to one another and to highlight other fruitful areas for future engagement, I examine several key moments between 1991 and 2008 when two seemingly unrelated narratives have overlapped. These narratives concern (1) the development and implementation of reproductive technologies from the sonogram to in vitro fertilization to regenerative medicine, and (2) the expansion of a range of experimental performance practices in new media and bio art performance. The moments when these histories converge are marked by a series of performances by Deb Margolin, Critical Art Ensemble, Anna Furse, the Olimpias Performance Research Group, and the Tissue Culture and Art Project, and by a body of critical writings from the artists themselves and a group of performance scholars. This journey is also marked by strategic expeditions back into the 1960s to revisit and reinterpret foundational moments in the histories of feminist, activist, and new media performance. Moving between the 1960s and the 1990s/2000s, I use contemporary performance to re-imagine the relationship between gender, technology, and embodiment in some of our origin myths about performance art. I also use the historical performances to unpack the contributions and limitations of the contemporary work. In my analysis of these materials, I do two things: I tease out how the artists in question have used experimental performance to generate new theoretical, tactical, and physical ways of engaging with reproductive technologies. At the same time, I also examine the ways in which reproductive technologies - as a set of political, ethical, and representational issues and as material objects/practices - are pushing performance theory and practice in new directions, complicating our theorizations of participation and providing new avenues for spectatorial interaction.
Positioning Carolee Schneemann's Eye Body (1963) as the beginning of an unfolding of feminist corporeal interrogations of technology and technological interrogations of corporeality, I argue in Chapter 1 that genealogies of new media and feminist performance must take seriously feminist performance's long history of investigating the politics of technology. I then lay out the project's topic, scope, and the secondary literature on notions of participation, reproduction, and technology within the fields of experimental performance, science and technology studies, and feminist theory. In Chapter 2, I present a close reading of feminist playwright and performance artist Deb Margolin's solo performance Gestation (1991) alongside cultural histories of the sonogram. I pair these stories to show how feminist performance artists' experience with technologies of representation became a place where important debates around technology, agency, and embodiment could be staged at a crucial time in the history of feminist theory. Intervening in ongoing debates within new media theory about interactivity and embodiment in Chapter 3, I detail the ways in which the tactical media collective Critical Art Ensemble crafted physical and affective structures of interactivity in order to engender certain forms of public resistance to in vitro fertilization in its groundbreaking 1998 performance Flesh Machine . In Chapters 4 and 5, I move on to analyze the risks and rewards that emerged from two long-term collaborations between art and biotechnology. In Chapter 4 I put British director and producer Anna Furse's Glass Body: Reflecting on Becoming Transparent (2006-2008) in conversation with performance projects by the Olimpias Performance Research Group to demonstrate how collaborations with biomedicine reshape issues at the center of debates around social practice. In Chapter 5, I recast the Tissue Culture and Art Project's 2002 bio art performance installation The Pig Wings Project within the tradition of feminist maintenance artists such as Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Betye Saar, and Mary Kelly in order to argue that together, this new constellation of maintenance artists has crafted a set of interactive performance practices which stage maintenance and the duration of performance in order to reveal the ways in which regenerative medicine disavows its dependence on feminized labor.