Presenting Tender Rhythms at the 2018 NWSA Conference

Stephanie is an interdisciplinary scholar, artist, teacher, curator, activist, and tender soul working on the intersection of the humanities, arts, science, and technology. Originally from Belgium, she moved to the United States to pursue her doctoral degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

She describes her work as TENDER ACTIVISM, shifting the focus from the individual to the tender inter-subjective relationships between and beyond us.

Across different scholalry and artistic modalities – from writing, to singing, interactive installations, EEG bio-feedback art, performance art, and teaching – her body of work critiques and aims to subvert the colonial, ableist, hetero-patriarchal, neo-liberal emphasis and obsession with autonomous and invulnerable subjectivity, binary sociality, and phallic sexuality. Instead, she offers a radical rethinking of subjectivity, sociality, and sexuality as tender.

This tender activism is explicitly informed by her psychoanalytic, feminist, queer, Black, post-colonial, disability, philosophy, and affect studies RESEARCH. The word-choice “tender” (Zärtlich) is immediately derived from the ‘hysterics’ in Freud’s early work, who use the word tenderness (or Zärtlichkeit) to describe an alternative and non-phallic kind of sexuality and subjectivity. Stephanie’s work reclaims the hysterics’ silenced and neglected word-choice to both unearth and continue their proto-feminist, proto-queer, proto-relational, and proto-affect work to reimagine sexual desire and subjectivity as non-phallic, post-orgasmic, and non-genital-centered.

While researchers continue Freud’s trend to connote tenderness as infantile, maternal, feminine, and emasculate, Stephanie’s artistic research aims to debunk this connotation. Etymologically, tenderness is derived from the Proto-Indo-European -ten, -tan: to stretch or to be stretched. Rethinking individuals, socialities, and erotics as stretchable entities is also at the heart of Stephanie’s ART. Encouraged by the fact that tenderness has this Proto-Indo-European root in common with words like tune and tone, Stephanie’s art attributes a central place to music and sonification. With the use of my voice, body, ukulele, city noises, and recent technologies in neuroscience, she creates interactive sound-installations, soundscapes, lullabies, and songs that explore and give voice to the so often silenced inter-subjective tenderness.

Besides my research, this intermodal and interdisciplinary combination of theory and art equally characterizes my TEACHING. My classes in critical theory, emphasize the subversive potential of art as a way to critique and dismantle the problematic ideologies at the heart of colonial ableist hetero-patriarchy. My transformative pedagogic style equips students with the critical ‘toolkit’ to analyze as well as integrate art in their exploration and deconstruction of the hegemonic ways in which sex, gender, race, and ability are constructed. This interdisciplinary interest in research-based art spills over in my CURATION of hybrid events, conferences and workshops.