We Are Old Women, Hear Us Roar

September 1, 2021


Unaccustomed as I am to performance art, though I did read Heather Rose’s ‘The Museum of Modern Love’ and became fascinated with Marina Abramović, I was actively involved in my dear friend Deborah Eddy’s examination performance for her Doctorate in Visual Arts, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. This took place on Friday, 27 August at 3:15 pm on the Speaker’s Corner at King George Square in front of the Brisbane City Hall.

As part of Deborah’s topic of Meaningful Mischiefs, Feminist Activism, Craftivism and Performance the occasion involved Deborah standing in front of a group of women where she recited Helen Reddy’s iconic song ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ amended to ‘We are old women, hear us roar’.

Deborah’s visual art-based research project focuses on the phenomenon of older women’s invisibility. A timely topic considering this week’s investigation by Leigh Sales ‘Why Women Are Angry’ on the ABC, and last week’s exploration by Noni Hazlehurst ‘What Australia Really Thinks About Old People’ on sbs. The recent Federal Commission into Aged Care and several programs on TV exposed stories of horror and incredible neglect in aged care facilities. Various programs have highlighted the plight of once well to do women who are now aged and faced with homelessness.

As a feminist activist artist Deborah’s approach to her audience is to seek recognition of older women as being equally valuable members of society. Her message instils a reminder that: ‘We too were once young and revelled in our glory,’ and calls for unity ‘All our voices, our opinions valued, young and old, proud and loud.’ Deborah’s powerful performance demands action to end ageism and violence against women. Drawing attention to and confronting the audience with the disregard of general society towards ageism is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

Deborah’s granddaughter Lily skilfully did the acknowledgement of country and provided the introduction to the performance. It was a moving touch to see three generations of women involved in a project culminating the pinnacle of Deborah’s academic path as a mature age woman. Deborah’s daughter was part of the chorus, as was her daughter in law.

Clad in high-vis pink vests ensured that Deborah and her cohort of women were very clearly visible. The bright yellow megaphones depicting ‘ROAR’ in black lettering added to the dramatis personae allure. Even the statue of the suffragette Emma Miller was appropriately clad in a banner of protest. Deborah expertly rendered Reddy’s altered lyrics with the backup of the sprightly chorus to the audience which included her examiners.

Emma Miller joining forces

After the presentation Deborah invited all involved for a drink to the Pig ‘N’ Whistle, where I pondered about my involvement as having been part of performance art. Now that I have the experience, who knows where that will take me next? Deborah is negotiating with an Artspace to showcase the youtube and costumes of our performance. Watch this space, I’ll let you know where and when this will take place. 


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