She is All But Absent From History is a project that explores the structure of adventure narratives, how women often excluded from these stories claim space and agency, and the importance of representation in writing. As a point of departure, I investigate writer Joseph Campbell’s text The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a comparative work in which the author discusses his theories on the archetypal hero and the characteristics of the journey. The cyclical structure that Campbell outlines in his book is imbued with notions of patriarchy and leaves little room for interpretation. At its core, this project is attempting to intervene in and renegotiate the terms of “the hero’s journey” through the exploration of marginalized and omitted female narratives, both fictional and biographical. Turning my attention to the writing and narratives of women, the work included in this project attempts to visually map out my research through the compilation of various texts and imagery, referencing my engagement with these histories while also encouraging further investigation.
In her memoir, writer Margo Jefferson writes that she “was a jealous little she-reader; [she] resented pouring [herself] into the lives of hero-boys¹”. In the context of this project, I reference this quote on a handmade banner, an object that, in and of itself, is a symbol of protest and interference, in an attempt to assert my own agency, reference my heroes, and consider how we might move forward in dismantling hegemonic structures.
¹ Margo Jefferson, 2015, Negroland: A Memoir (Pantheon Books, New York, 1942) p. 140 © Margo Jefferson
Myself and My Heroes is a new video exploring research compiled over the last two years for my project She Is All But Absent From History. Referencing David Hockney’s 1962 work of the same name, the video explores images, video clips, books and articles that have informed my thinking on heroism and its relationship to gender. Through the use of screen recording, this video seeks to reveal connections made between different source material and highlight the stories of women that often exist on the structural margins of “the hero’s journey”.
Alessandra Abballe is a multidisciplinary Toronto-based artist holding a BFA in Photography Studies from Ryerson University. Her practice is rooted in the desire to use art as a means of inquisition and disruption, often investigating notions of hegemony through the process of research and making. While grounded in photography, her work includes performance, textiles, video, writings, and archival imagery.