Woman With Salad

  • Emily Perry

  • Presented by — Seventeen

  • Emily Perry, Women with Salad, 2017, performance. Courtesy of Seventeen
A woman holding a bowl of salad in one hand and a fork with lettuce in the other performing Woman with Salad by Emily Perry

Woman with Salad is a work for a single female performer or a group of female performers who each concurrently enact a single gesture, repeated continuously for an hour. These gestures derive from images and animated GIFs found in online commercial stock footage libraries that depict women engaged in actions such as laughing while holding food, looking into a mirror, brushing their hair or drinking a glass of wine. These commercially produced images, designed to be purchased and dispersed throughout the wider broadcast media, depict stereotypically female actions, while being aimed at the current advertising industry also echo the manual and domestic tasks that women perform in historical painting. The performers become Live GIFs.

The Performers

Woman with Salad can be performed by one woman or up to twelve women, one for each GIF.

All GIFs must be performed by adult women (over 18 years old and inclusive of anyone who identifies as a womxn). Performers should be able to perform the requirements for their GIF, they should be local to the gallery, of any adult age, any ethnicity, any size or shape. Performers should be representative of the local population’s diversity. The work will grow with each iteration and remain contemporary by talking of the time, place, demographic of the area etc.

Performers remain focused on their task and do not respond to the audience. Performers repeated actions will inevitably alter throughout the performance because women are not GIFs so cannot perform perfect repetition. See info on each GIF including individual routine, attitude, outfit, hairstyle, make-up etc. Performers can take breaks anytime they like but must remain inside the gallery/exhibition space and where possible not break at the same time as other performers in their immediate vicinity to ensure the performance continues. Performers finish their GIF cycle and place any props on the floor before their break. On returning they pick up and start repeating their GIF again.

Relationship with the Museum/Collection/The context for performance/How it is organised in gallery

Woman With Salad requires at least one female performer plus the finances to pay each performer as generously as possible (at least contemporary minimum/living wage). Woman with Salad can be performed with a minimum of five GIFs of a possible twelve (amount correct as of 2022). There are no particular requirements for the space. Woman with Salad should be experienced as something happening in the gallery that the audience can explore freely without set start and finish times. The performance can be presented within an existing collection or as part of a group exhibition, or exhibited alone as the only artwork in the space. Woman with Salad can also happen as part of special events outside gallery opening times.

Gallery staff must ensure performers are safe and comfortable. Audiences are allowed to take photos or short videos and this should be policed by staff. Performers must be protected from any physical contact, extended interaction or harassment. Performers should be aware of the gallery’s policy on photography and have a contingency plan to ensure good health and safety.

The duration of the performance is the length of gallery opening times. Performers cannot work more than the country’s recommended hours per day and should avoid working more than two consecutive days because repeating the same actions can be very strenuous and unhealthy. Performers should have time before their performance to do warm-up exercises and should have access to water and food to stay hydrated and energised.

How performance starts and ends

Props are positioned on the floor of the GIF sites. The performers walk to their props, pick them up, adopt their starting position and begin their routines. When taking a break performers put down their props on the floor/table/chair and take a break. They should stay inside or just outside the gallery and break for a predetermined amount of time. They can access private spaces within the gallery or use public areas of the gallery and remain “on view”. The gallery should decide how it will tell performers that the performance is ending. Examples include: an invigilator subtly touches each performer then ten seconds later the performer stops; an alarm sounds or an announcement is made, ten seconds after which performers stop; performers have phones in their pockets which vibrate at the end time. At the end of the performance performers put their props down on the floor/table/chair and leave the exhibition space as themselves.

For one-woman performances, she starts as Woman with Salad, performing the routine three times and then cycles through the other GIFs, repeating each routine three times before moving to the next GIF.

Positions

Performers should be inside and perhaps just outside the gallery, either spread around the space seen amongst other works or concentrated in one area. If all GIFs are in one space, there should be enough space for the audience to move between the performers. There are some particular position requirements for Woman Pouring Water on her face, Woman Drinking Wine and Smoking, Woman Reading Virginia Woolf and Woman Waiting. See full description and requirements for each GIF below.

For one-woman performances, the GIF props should be concentrated in one area, so the audience can see her move from one task to the next in a relentless cycle.

There are no particular requirements for lighting or acoustics or type of exhibition space.

The performance space requires access to boiling water, backstage set up space, secure place to store performers belongings, private place for performers to get changed, access to refreshments and toilets.

How to recruit and rehearse with performers

Performers should be recruited locally to the exhibition location. Interview times and days should be varied and advertised widely to be accessible to a diverse group of applicants.

Interview for each GIF, unless showing the one-woman version. At interview discuss the concept of the performance, relevant historical/organisational context and the practicalities of this iteration of Woman with Salad. Check the applicant’s ability to perform the actions. Performers should sign contracts detailing the nature of their employment, their GIF type, rehearsal/performance times and amount of money earnt.

Rehearsal with selected performers

  • Allow time for performers to meet as a group (if working with a group)
  • Provide refreshments
  • Explain how to find exits/refreshment area/toilets
  • Share my descriptions and images of each GIF with relevant performers
  • Discuss and demonstrate each GIF routine for all performers
  • Allow individuals to rehearse their routines
  • Plan positions in exhibition space
  • Practice performance as a whole in the exhibition space including how each performer leaves and joins the performance (for breaks) and how the performance starts and ends
  • Discuss each performers outfit, hair style and make up

Documentation requirements

With every showing of Woman with Salad the exhibiting organisation must:

  • Take photos of each performer in every position of her routine
  • Record a copy of performer’s contracts
  • Share and record performers’ responses to this feedback form (…) following their performances
  • Send a copy of this documentation to the artist.

Documentation cannot be exhibited in lue of a performance. Documentation will provide more information for the next staging of the work. Woman with Salad will be changed over time and with every rendition, as each individual performer, each group of performers and every audience will bring a different atmosphere. External global events, developments in feminism and gender politics and individuals internal moods will define the work and speak of that moment. As stock imagery and our relation to and awareness of it changes, Woman with Salad will be understood differently.

Public documentation (where we have control such as on a gallery’s website) of Woman with Salad should be in the form of still images or GIFs rather than video. Exhibiting organisations can determine if audiences are allowed to take videos of the performance ensuring the performers are aware of the rules and are protected by gallery staff.

Conditions of sale

Price £8,500 + vat

Woman with Salad is a performance sold as individual GIFs. One can acquire and exhibit a minimum of five GIFs. The GIF Woman with Salad is always one of the GIFs purchased.

The acquiring organisation has to commit to showing Woman with Salad at least once every five years. Documentation cannot be exhibited in lue of a performance.

Woman with Salad must be performed at least once during exhibition period. Props can be left unactivated on display for one day following a performance. Props should never be displayed alone without performance activation. They do not have value in and of themselves as art objects, but rather only when seen before and after a performance and accompanied by an exhibition text. I am interested in live objects as remnants of the performance: the tea gets cold and stews, the spilt water puddle dries up, the salad leaves wilt, the avocado browns, the apple peels decay and smell sweet, the lipstick marks the wine glass, the chewing gum hardens…
After a day of display following a performance the props should be cleared away and gallery restored to how it was: chewing gum stains/footprints painted over; floor dried and cleaned.

If part of a group exhibition where Woman with Salad is shown only once, following the performance and day of prop display, there is no presence of Woman with Salad, other than writing record of the work in exhibition text.

Images of Woman with Salad can be shown on organisation’s website/social media. Documentation (following guidelines above) must be archived by acquiring organisation and shared with artist. Woman with Salad GIFs are not limited to editions and the artist may make more GIFs in the future as this is a growing production.

Conditions of reselling

Woman with Salad can be resold with the same conditions outlined in this document. Artist requirements regarding the process, exhibition and documentation of the work must be adhered to by all future owners of Woman with Salad.

Woman with Salad develops as it is recreated, and this distribution of the work over time and place adds to its meaning. Recreating the performance enhances the work’s idea of imperfect repetition, the ridiculousness of women as GIFs and the ridiculousness of women as interchangeable/universal: whoever Woman with Salad is, in the performance she is only Woman with Salad. The work will continue to speak of its time and meaning will adapt to the changing context.


Information for Individual GIFs

Woman With Salad

Performance still from Woman With Salad
Performance still from Woman With Salad

Woman With Salad wears contemporary yoga style clothes, for example leggings and a plain t-shirt (without logos or patterns) and trainers. She holds a bowl of salad (only leaves) in her left hand and a fork in right hand.

The GIF begins: She looks amazed at the bowl (her mouth in an open smile, her eyebrows high), and stabs some salad with her fork. She holds her fork hand up in front of her, her eyes following the fork from the bowl. She looks at the leaves on her fork and laughs, throwing her head back and dropping the wrist that holds the fork. The laughter ends and she starts the routine again. She repeats these actions.

Salad gets flung around as the performance goes on. If she runs out of leaves because they have all fallen on the floor, she continues the gestures for the allotted time with an empty fork and bowl.

The bowl can be replenished with leaves outside performance times, or for whole day performances the performer should refill the bowl during a break. In this situation when taking a break she takes the bowl with her, leaving the fork on the floor, and adds more leaves to the bowl while backstage/out of audience sight. She returns to the performance carrying a bowl of salad. These “edges of the performance” are important. Her breaks are partly visible, her journey across the gallery holding salad is part of it.

Woman Pouring Water

(There are two versions of Woman Pouring Water…)

Woman Pouring Water in Glass

Performance still from Woman Pouring Water in Glass
Performance still from Woman Pouring Water in Glass

Woman Pouring Water in Glass wears jeans and a white t-shirt. She holds a glass jug/bottle of water in one hand and a small tumbler glass in the other hand. She pours water from the jug to the glass, slowly and moving the jug up then down so the water falls from some height, watching what she is doing and smiling. She then takes a sip of water from the glass, breathes out audibly and closes her eye briefly. She then pours the glass water back into the jug. She repeats these actions.

If the water runs out she continues the gestures. For whole day performances the performer should refill the jug during a break. In this situation when taking a break she takes the jug with her, leaving the glass on the floor, and adds more water to the jug while backstage/out of audience sight. She returns to the performance carrying a jug of water. These “edges of the performance” are important. Her breaks are partly visible, her journey across the gallery holding a jug of water is part of the work.

Woman Pouring Water on her Face

Performance still from Woman Pouring Water on her Face
Performance still from Woman Pouring Water on her Face

Woman Pouring Water on Her Face wears a white top and sports trousers or shorts and trainers. She stands outside or inside the gallery confidently on both feet. She holds a bottle of water in one hand, takes it slowly to her lips, drinks a sip, then holds it out in front of her admiring the water. She then lifts the bottle up, closes her eyes and tips the bottle until she pours water over her face. She receives the water with closed eyes and a relaxed sigh of pleasure. When taking a break she leaves the open water bottle on the floor next to the water puddle created by the performance. The performer could change her t-shirt during breaks if she is cold, but the performance should always start with a dry

Woman Gardening

Performance still from Woman Gardening
Performance still from Woman Gardening

Woman Gardening stands outside in a garden/by plants holding a traditional shaped watering can with both hands. She smiles facing forwards then turns her head to look at the watering can and lunges forward to pour water over the flowers/plants/garden. She chuckles while looking at the patch she’s watered, then straightens, turns her head and smiles again. She repeats these actions. If the watering can empties, she continues the gestures. It can be refilled between performances. The garden will flood slightly as she continues to water the same area. For whole day performances the performer should refill the watering can during a break. In this situation when taking a break she takes the watering can with her and refills it while backstage/out of audience sight. She returns to the performance carrying the watering can outside. These “edges of the performance” are important. Her breaks are partly visible, her journey across the gallery holding the watering can is part of the work.

Woman With Avocado

Performance still from Woman with Avocado
Performance still from Woman with Avocado

Woman With Avocado wears a green or white t-shirt and black leggings. She sits on the floor cross legged and holds the halved avocado together with two hands in prayer position. She then lifts her hands up, parts the halves and slowly places the backs of her hands on her knees. She closes her eyes for a couple of seconds and breathes audibly. Her movements are slow and calm. She then positions one avocado half over her eye and smiles, her other hand still on her knee. She then holds one half next to her face tilting her head towards it and the other hand holds the other half over her heart. She smiles and repeats these actions. When taking a break Woman with Avocado leaves the two avocado halves on the floor next to each other. A new avocado is given for every new performance. For whole day performances the avocado can go brown but each day should start with a fresh avocado.

Woman Drinking Wine and Smoking

Woman Drinking Wine and Smoking wears a black dress and red lipstick. She is positioned outside the gallery by an entrance/exit, or if the gallery does not have a threshold to outside, she leans on a wall/pillar (somewhere where people pass her) and uses an e-cigarette. She leans on something, a door frame or wall, and has a sullen, arrogant attitude. She holds a glass of wine (or white/red wine coloured drink) in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She takes a drag of the cigarette, holding it between fore and middle fingers, then slowly takes the fag to her side with an exaggerated extended arm. She then turns her head to look over her wine-glass-side shoulder and tuts while shrugging her shoulder as if someone knocked into her. She slowly lifts the glass to her lips and takes a sip of wine. She repeats these actions. For whole day performances the performer should refill the glass of wine during a break. In this situation when taking a break she takes the glass with her and refills it while backstage/out of audience sight. She returns to the performance carrying the full glass.

Woman With Mirror

Performance still from Woman with Mirror
Performance still from Woman with Mirror

Woman With Mirror wears a white top and plain trousers/skirt. She holds a small mirror with one hand. She holds the mirror in front of her, approximately 30 centimetres from her face. She leans in to the mirror, reveals her teeth, then wipes her tongue along her front teeth (exaggerating sound of tongue over gum). She then turns ninety degrees quickly as if to pose for a photo, her hand on her waist, mirror hand hanging by her side, leaning into the hand on waist and smiling brightly showing her teeth. She repeats these actions. When taking a break, she leaves the mirror on the floor.

Woman Reading by Window

Performance still from Woman Reading by Window
Performance still from Woman Reading by Window

Woman Reading by Window wears jeans/casual trousers and a plain t-shirt. She sits on a chair by a window or balcony. She looks out the window/over the balcony with her legs crossed, arms folded, one hand holding the book, thumb keeping the page. She then uncrosses her legs and leans forward positioning her elbows on her knees, now holding the book with both hands. She studies the book following a sentence with her eyes, then slowly sits back in her chair, dropping her hands in her lap, still holding the book with both hands. She turns her head to the window taking in a deep breath and sighs in a melancholic, satisfied way. She then holds the book with one hand, folds her arms and crosses her legs. She repeats these actions.

Woman Brushing Her Hair

Woman Brushing Her Hair wears jeans and a plain t-shirt. She holds a pained, awkward smile throughout. She brushes her knotted hair slowly, taking one long stroke from the top of her head through the whole length of hair. As the brush reaches the end of her hair, she pulls harder to get through a final knot and lets out a pained laugh, as if uncontrollably interrupting the should-be-sexy hair brushing. She should be positioned in the middle of the room so the audience can walk right round her. This performer needs to have long brushable hair. During breaks the hairbrush is left on the floor. The brush should be cleaned of hairs as infrequently as possible so hairbrush appears visibly used, yet is still useable.

Woman Holding Shopping

Woman Holding Shopping wears a coloured skirt and a tucked-in plain t-shirt. She stands impatiently holding two brown paper bags of grocery shopping, one in each hand. Her facial expression is frustrated concern, her eyes move as if looking for someone in the distance. She bounces the bags slightly as if she’s comforting two babies or impatiently waiting and cannot hold still. She groans an audible tired moan and puts the bags down at her sides. She searches in one bag and takes a box of eggs out the bag. She opens the egg box lid to check they are not broken, then closes the lid, puts them back in the bag and picks up the bags again. She repeats these actions. She leaves bags side by side on the floor during breaks and at end of performance.

Woman Waiting

Woman Waiting wears jeans and a plain t-shirt. She leans against a wall, one foot on the wall and is chewing gum and wearing a watch. She casually looks down at her left wrist, hanging by her left side, turning it to reveal the watchface and check the time. She then puts her foot on the floor, stops leaning on the wall and looks from side to side. She then leans back on the wall and plays candy crush on her phone. She repeats these actions. Following the performance and before taking breaks the performer takes the chewing gum out of her mouth and sticks it to the wall by her foot print. She leaves the phone on the floor displaying candy crush game.

Woman Peeling Apples

Performance still from Woman Peeling Apples
Performance still from Woman Peeling Apples

Woman Peeling Apples wears a cream-coloured apron over jeans and a plain t-shirt. She sits at a wooden table, in front of her a pile of red apples in a white IKEA bowl and an empty transparent bowl. She holds one apple in her left hand and a wooden handled peeler in her right hand. She peels three strikes of the apple into the empty bowl looking at the apple with a closed mouth smile. She then turns her head to look at the pile of apples and drops the peeler and puts her head in her hand, elbow on the table and makes a disheartened moaning sound. She repeats these actions. She peels the same apple for the duration of performance and pretends to keep peeling the core if it gets used up. She takes another apple at the start of a new performance. The bowl of apples should be replenished outside of performance times. She leaves the peeler on the table and apron on the back of the chair during breaks. On returning she puts the apron on, sits down then begins the routine.

Woman Pouring Tea

Woman Pouring Tea wears a plain dark dress and comfortable low heeled shoes. She offers tea like a static waitress. She stands holding a cup and saucer in one hand and a teapot full of tea in the other hand. She pours the tea into the teacup holding a smile and watching the stream of liquid as she pours from a height. She then pauses holding the full teacup (on saucer) and teapot in front of her. She straightens her teacup-holding arm, raises her eyebrows and says “tea?” in a high pitched voice holding an open smile after the “ee” sound. She repeats this. When taking a break and ending the performance she places the teacup on saucer and teapot on the floor, in or next to the puddle. Pour half a cup of tea at first and then let the cup overflow into the saucer and onto the floor. When the teapot is empty keep the same actions. Performer can refill the teapot with water (not hot water) on her way back from a break, if doing this she should leave the teacup on the floor and take the teapot with her. The journey across the gallery with a teapot is part of the performance. Woman Pouring Tea can be positioned anywhere inside the gallery with awareness that the spilt tea will create a trip hazard.

Woman Taking Selfies

Woman Taking Selfies wears a casual outfit with a plain coloured t-shirt/jumper. Standing up, she takes her phone from her back pocket (if she doesn’t have pockets, she just holds her phone, arms at her sides) and selects the camera with the forefinger of her other hand. She holds her arm out in front of her, above her eyeline and looks up at the camera. Maintaining eye contact with herself in the phone camera, she tilts her head to the right, pouts her lips and takes three photos, moving the camera ever so slightly between each shot. She tilts her head to the left, pouts and takes three photos, again from slightly different angles. She lowers her arm and scrolls through the selfies, holding the phone with one hand and swiping with the forefinger of the other hand. She locks her phone and puts it back in her pocket or by her side. The GIF repeats. At the end of the performance, she ends the routine and leaves the area with the phone in her pocket or hand.

Woman Taking Selfies can be positioned anywhere in or outside the gallery, however her background should be considered. For example, a domestic plant in the background or positioned in the bathroom!

Equipment

  • All props should be sourced locally for each exhibition of the work. They should speak of the time by being common affordable everyday objects for the time and place of exhibition

  • Water bottle (more sporty/practical then trendy)
  • Fork
  • Small bowl for salad
  • Small bowl for apple peels
  • Large bowl for apples
  • Wooden-handled potato peeler
  • Wooden chopping board
  • Brown paper bags
  • Wrist watch
  • Tea cup and saucer
  • Small teapot
  • Pack of cigarettes
  • E-cigarette
  • Wine glass
  • Plain apron
  • Hair brush
  • Watering can
  • Hand mirror
  • Virginia Woolf A Room of One’s Own book
  • Small wooden table
  • Wooden stool
  • Performer outfits (performers should wear their own clothes based on descriptions given on each GIF. If they need help sourcing certain items of clothing, the exhibiting organisation should pay)
  • Perishable props

  • Salad leaves
  • Apples
  • Vegetables
  • Box of eggs
  • Avocado
  • Tea bags and water
  • Wine/wine-coloured beverage
  • Pack of chewing gum

Woman With Salad