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  • Writer's pictureCristea Zhao

5. Action Psyché, 1973/74

Gina Pane

Action Psyché, 1973/74

Performance, documentary photograph

Richard Saltoun, London

This is one of Pane’s body art pieces in 70s, originally a 27min performance with a documentary photographer in presence. Same as her Action Nourriture (Actualités télévisées) in 1971, here the artist more focused on the linkage of pain and body and its representations.

The action of creating pain in silence can be seen as writing in a new language. On one layer, of course, pain as an expression, creating pain as writing; while in the deeper layer, it over-tuned the passivity of female’s position in face of pain and violence. As female is always the receptacle of such pain and violence, now it’s a destroy of such convention and at the same time re-create “autonomous signs of women ”.

Beyonds feminism approaches and intensions, this work can be seen as an action to restoring pain as our primitive experiences. This is another overturning, this time of the hierarchization of our senses. In the art tradition, vision, which is not a strong, direct bodily experience, masters in our perception. Now the creation of pain and the reception of pain is an action of giving the bodily materiality back to the body.

The mirror here is not only referred to as a cheval glass (psyche), but also function as reversing the gaze back to the audience itself, ‘forcing’ the audience to carry out the operating force, which is ‘to recognize itself as a voyeur’ (Pane).

At the same time, this performance piece being a ritual mourning for Pane’s mother’s death opens up more interpretation. The razor blade cuts on her belly lands at the location where is the beginning of a mother-daughter relationship. It is corporal vulnerability when it comes to loss: I become fragmentized, I am missed, without you.

As for my own practice, pain is not what I am after, but this new language that body speaks inspire me a lot. This is not only body as material but also body as materiality.


Zimmermann, Anja. ""Sorry for Having to Make You Suffer": Body, Spectator, and the Gaze in the Performances of Yves Klein, Gina Pane, and Orlan." Discourse (Berkeley, Calif.) 24, no. 3 (2002): 27-46.

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