Born in Kent, Rebecca Truscott-Elves is a multidisciplinary artist telling peculiar tales of disinterment, femaleness and place, in the tension between drawing, making and language. She has a particular interest in drawing, narrative, and ceramic sculpture, and has undertaken illustration and animation commissions by organisations including Cicada Books and International Alert. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2016, where she was awarded the Gordon Peter Pickard Prize, Rebecca has continued to teach and exhibit in the UK and further afield, including Offprint at Tate Modern (2015) and What is DRAWing? at London’s Temple Church Triforium (2018). Most recently, she curated and took part in a two-woman show with Catherine Anyango Grünewald as part of 2019’s Margate Festival, as well as taking part in group shows Lines of Thought (2019), at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art in South Korea, and The Studio at 4 a.m. at Hastings Contemporary.
Rebecca was awarded a faculty scholarship to undertake this PhD research
PhD Research Topic
The house was like her: rebuilding the post-traumatic home through art practice.
The home remains the most dangerous place for women across the globe (Lemahieu, Me et al.: 2018), and the number of women murdered by a partner or ex-partner in the UK increased by 10% in 2019, to a five-year high (Mackintosh and Swann, 2019). In recent research exploring the relationship between the home and artistic practices, including by Imogen Racz (2015) and Gill Perry (2013), many facets of the architectural-personal relationship in art are examined, while omitting a deeper consideration of the home as the primary site of violence against women. With that said, two monographs published in 2019, by Vivien Ann Fryd and Nancy Princenthal, were dedicated to exploring themes of female trauma in feminist art practices, from their origins in the 1970s through to today. While these works provide valuable insight into practices in this area, they focus primarily on performance art, the traumatic event, and the victim-perpetrator relationship in art.
This study develops some of the insights from these authors by investigating the relationship between survivor and home in the aftermath of traumatic events, with a focus on how this trauma-fractured relationship might be reconfigured through art practice. In so doing, it builds upon ideas of reparative reading and postcritique. Griselda Pollock (2013) and Rita Felski (2015) both draw upon Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick’s (2003) proposal for a reparative approach to cultural analysis, as an alternative to the dominant paranoid approaches stemming from critical theory. Pollock combines reparative readings with feminist psychoanalyses of artworks engaged in the “transformation […] of the traces of trauma”; Felski extends Sedgwick’s ideas into a postcritical framework for literary studies. Felski’s postcritique calls into question the hermeneutics of suspicion (Ricoeur, 1986) as the primary mode of engaging with cultural outputs and in doing so, echoes the importance of overcoming hypervigilant states in recovering from trauma. (Breslau, 2009)
The parallels between postcritique and trauma recovery serve as a framework for this practice-led artistic research, in which the splintered vestiges of the post-traumatic home are translated and rebuilt into “something like a whole – though […] not necessarily like any pre-existing whole”. (Sedgwick & Frank, 2003, p. 128) Art practice offers tools and processes to explore, transform and reconcile the psycho-ontological splintering effects of female victimisation within the home. This research investigates the rebuilding of the post-traumatic home by engaging with artistic materials and processes, informed by postcritique; bringing artists’ archives and studio methods into dialogue with these translations of home-fragments; and recording the evolution of these visual narratives through their interaction with audiences. In this way, it explores the role of art practice – both its processes and its outcomes – in deepening understanding of the splintered afterlives of female trauma, and in reimagining the idea of the home as a safe place