Scalpland – poetic performance (1995-1996)




This performance based work was initially presented as part of course work for Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Queensland, Department of Art History Visiting Scholar program in 1995. It was later presented at Volt:the new performance at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane in 1996.

In 1994, Tracey received an Individual Professional Development Grant from Arts Queensland to attend a summer school titled ‘Decolonising Knowledge’ which aided her development in regard to the conceptual content she explores in her work.

Scalpland was developed from this research, utilising the body and the notion of the landscape as exchangeable metaphors signifying colony.

Documentation - Scalpland

Documentation - Scalpland


The key areas of consideration were:

1. To explore the contemporary implications of Australia’s colonial (myth)story as exemplified by the reality of the urban sprawl.

2. To subtly reference Australia’s colonial past as a penal colony as one of the various discursive operations surrounding the act clippering of my hair.

3. To deal contextually and physically with the colonisation of the body and mind with specific reference to the female body.

4. To use the pseudoscience of Phrenology as the colonial model to challenge the authority of such modalities of thought.

5. To specifically address Paul Carter’s discussions on mimesis, and blindness via the performative aspect of the presentation.

6. To present the performance as an anti-performance or anti-theatre. The ways that physically present these issues are crucial to my statement regarding colonisation.

7. To unify all aspects of this piece, not as a clear demarcation, but rather to assure the relativity contextually via an overlapping of ideas and metaphors.

Sample of text

Section 1: Scalpland
Mowing – A suburban weekend ritual – Up and down – in neat, straight lines – A suburban expectation – When I mow the lawn, I make spirals – Starting from the tree trunk and slowly working out – This practice invites friendly criticisms from neighbours, who all own their share of the urban sprawl

Scalpland - documentation

Scalpland - documentation

I only rent, a nomad – When I was a kid, the end of the street turned into bush – We lost hours there – As an adult, I returned to that place – Now a new estate – Red brick structures on land totally cleared – Progress? Surely not – Why didn’t they leave some trees? Did they have to clear the surface so they may draw their new maps?

To find the analogy between mowing and clippering ones hair – is not too difficult – Both represent a clearing of the surface – Though one, (namely mowing) conforms, whereas the other, (a woman clippering her own hair off) deviates – Perhaps not so much now as then – It’s the ‘then’ that requires another look –

Hair – Woman’s crowning glory – A sign of her femininity, her feminine vanity – To be robbed of this was nothing less than total humiliation, or a sign of humility – In God’s service – Otherwise, a mark of denigration reserved for criminals, or hysterics

Defeminised – Androgynous – Neutered

Joan of Arc cut her own hair off – One of her crimes… They wanted to do it as part of her torture – They were too late – She defied convention – Neither a free flowing, haired whore, nor bound haired housewife

Now, today – how will I be colonised for this act? Perceived as degenerate, banal, trendy? Too bad – Your coding does not make me – Only makes me safe on your terms – “There are names for women like you.”

Described – Inscribed – Located – Mapped