Photo Mark Howe

My work weaves together audio, texts, archival and found materials with photographs and performances to interrogate the slippery multi-faceted performance of femininity. Through revealing the hidden mechanisms and staged moments, I want to bring to light the layers of identity informed by social interaction and contexts, the contradictions in physical bodily display and the divergent techniques of hiding in plain sight—being the dazzling spectacle in the spotlight.

I prise open these spotlight moments in my work by drawing attention to the crafting of identity through entertainment. I do this through a process of bringing in expert voices, building unlikely relationships with retired chorus girls, current showgirls and contrary performers, who play along with me, committing to a period of embarrassed rehearsals and ritual humiliation through public performance.

I am interested in the labour of the performance, the vulnerability of the body, loneliness and lack of talent. I often step into these awkward moments, implicating myself and the viewer; dancing non-stop to the threshold of painful exhaustion; singing sincerely but imperfectly in a crowded room. I aim to capture a certain irreverence, absurdity tinged with melancholy, foolishness, pleasure—all these layers of live performance, all at the same time.

The long exposures of my photographs of theatre interiors reflect aspiration, opulence and dust. The façade and the real. The reality of construction. These resonant and atmospheric spaces are haunted with the trials of optimism and human endeavour, of putting on a show.


Alison J Carr is an artist and writer. She studied at the California Institute of the Arts, absorbing both the critical dialogue and the lure of the Hollywood facade. She worked with Leslie Dick, Natalie Bookchin, Ellen Birrell and Jo Ann Callis, developing her critical voice as well as her singing voice (taking singing lessons so that she could sing ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ by Laura Mulvey). Following her soujorn to LA, she returned to Sheffield to do a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University where she had gained her undergraduate degree. Her book, Viewing Pleasure and Being A Showgirl: How Do I Look? published by Routledge in 2018.

Alison has been a Terra Summer Residency fellow in Giverny, France and LoBe Gallery resident in Berlin. She was awarded an Arts Council England ‘Grants for the Arts’ award in 2017. In 2018 she was selected to be part of the first Freelands Art Programme cohort through Site Gallery Sheffield, and a-n mentoring scheme recipient working with the curator, Lucy Day.

Alison has shown her work in internationally in LA, Indiana, and Berlin, and nationally in London, Sheffield, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester and Blackpool. Highlights include: curating an exhibition at the University of Huddersfield’s Market Gallery. She has performed her first longer length solo performance, Bubikopf, in Sheffield and Newcastle. Recent commissions include a new performance for S1 Artspace / Making Ways for the Construction House season of events, staged at DINA, Sheffield.

Alison J Carr on Axisweb
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