Breaking As Making: Women Artists Employing Breaking, Violence And Destruction

17 Jun 2024

Regular hours

Mon, 17 Jun
18:30 – 20:30

Timezone: Europe/London

Cost of entry

Tickets are sold on a donation basis, as we want EVERYONE to be able to access this knowledge. Our classes are also recorded, and each ticket offers access to the live class, as well as 7 days worth of access to the recording.

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Hosted by: The Feminist Lecture Program

Our classes take place via zoom on Monday evenings, with a different topic and lecturer each week, hosted by our founder Luisa-Maria MacCormack. A Zoom link will be sent to ticketholders from Eventbrite or Outsavvy (depending where their ticket was bought) before the lecture begins.

Join FLP guest lecturer Joanna Sperryn-Jones, Assistant Professor in Fine Art, to find out how breaking, violence and destruction are used by women artists who utilise it to explore and investigate the power dynamics of breaking in society and the wider cultural context.



‘People find it quite weird that women make violent work, or work that uses violence. But we have as much right to it as anyone else.’ - Cornelia Parker 

From Doris Salcedo to Louise Bourgeois, Marina Abramović to Camille Claudel, there is a wealth of women artists working across sculpture, performance, film and participative artworks that have employed breaking, destruction or violence in their work. How is it that violence became so prolific in female creative practice, and what does this say about the wider cultural context that these women artists were making in? 

During this lecture, specific artworks will be used to consider nuances as the artist takes on the position of ‘breaker’ or are the subject of breaking. We will question how and what is broken, what is doing the breaking, the approach to breaking and how the reactions to the breaking can alter power dynamics in the artwork. Of particular focus is violence, or breaking, as means to escape gendered constraints:

Louise Bourgeois filmed herself pushing her stone sculpture off its plinth, destroying it in the process. In contrast, in ‘Rhythm 0’ (1974) Marina Abramović literally risks self-annihilation as she opens to the uncertainty of others’ actions. In ‘Be the first to see what you see as you see it’ (2004), Runa Islam calmly and deliberately breaks a china tea service, visually relishing breaking. In ‘Here comes Santa’ (2003) Sylvie Fleury films a woman in high heels enjoying a process of stamping on silver baubles, very different to Islam’s calm approach. 

As Gustav Metzger proposes, ‘Auto-destructive art seeks to be an instrument for transforming peoples’ thought and feelings, not only about art, but wants to use art to change people’s relations to themselves and society’.

This lecture will explore the power dynamics throughout these artworks with the aim of both revealing how breaking, violence and destruction operate in society and how women artists can best utilise these in their artwork for empowerment. 


Dr Joanna Sperryn-Jones is Assistant Professor in Fine Art at Coventry University, working as a lecturer on the BA Fine Art course and a researcher in the Centre for Art, Memory and Communities (CAMC). She completed her PhD in Sculpture, entitled, Breaking as Making, at Norwich University of the Arts and University of the Arts London in 2013. She has published several book chapters and expositions on gender, breaking and destruction. This includes the Introduction to 50 Women Sculptors (2020), an exposition for VIS journal (2019), and chapters for the following books; Art and Destruction (Walden, 2013), Artistic Research: Strategies for Embodiment (Mc Guirk & Fentz 2015) and The Art of Research II (Makela & O’Riley 2012). In 2014 Joanna initiated and managed the project This Woman’s Work, a London-wide project encouraging debate on women’s positions as artists as well as their representation in artwork funded by the Royal Female School of Art. In addition to researching philosophy and artwork in developing understanding of breaking and destruction, Joanna is an artist whose own sculptural participative works have explored these themes for the last 15 years. In 2023 she had a solo exhibition, Dust, at Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough.

INSTAGRAM: @josperrynjones



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