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 scholary 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-patriarchial 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 psychoanalytic, feminist, queer, Black, post-colonial, disability, philosophy, and affect study frameworks. 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 and reimagine sexual desire and subjectivity as non-phallic, post-orgasmic and non-genital-centered.

Etymologically, tenderness is derived from the Indo-European -ten, -tan: to stretch or to be stretched. Rethinking individuals, and their socialities and erotics as stretcheable entities, is at the heart of Stephanie’s research and art. Encouraged by the fact that tenderness has this 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 voice, ukulele, city noises, and and recent technologies in neuro-science, she creates interactive sound-installations, soundscapes, lullabies and songs that explore and give voice to the so often silenced inter-subjective tenderness.