Cecilia White is an interdisciplinary artist, poet, researcher, and tutor at UNSW. She was awarded her PhD from UNSW Art & Design in November 2017. Her performance, text, voice, drawing and installation work has been described as rich, evocative and revelatory. Her practice aims to create space to reflect on the impact of a globalising drive for certitude and examine the foundations of a sense of self. She particularly investigates a relationship between anxiety and wonder by focusing on the pause in breathing. In this reflective space, she explores the potential to radically (re)map a sense of self and radically different ways of living well together.
In sum, her work draws on the philosophy of Luce Irigaray to develop and remember a ‘poetics of breath’, arguing its interactions with anxiety and wonder can generate an urgently needed place for (inter)personal renaissance. In 2015, Cecilia was invited by the luminary philosopher Luce Irigaray to participate and present in her intensive week-long doctoral seminar Habiter et Parler, organised in conjunction with the University of Nottingham. After graduating, Cecilia received the following note:
Congratulations !!! Many thanks above all for having made my work fruitful. Continue working well and be happy.
Luce Irigaray 10 Nov 2017
Cecilia is creator/director of the internationally performed ‘breathing space projects.’ These projects embody her PhD research at UNSW in the Faculty of Art & Design. Each project engages body, everyday objects, multi-lingual text, light and sound to install performative respiratory systems in site-specific locations. Most familiar remnants after the often durational works are the chairs, mirrors, grass, books, tables, textiles, broken text and a remembering of breath.
Cecilia has exhibited, performed and studied in Australia, Europe, Asia and the UK. Her most recent residencies have included the 2015 writer’s residency ‘Paris Lit Up in Rome’ and the UNSW Studio at the Cite’ internationale des arts, Paris in 2014. In Paris she studied mime and body movement with Ivan Baldocchi, examined the history of breathing in the city of light, air, revolution and mental asylums and deepened her yoga practice. She created three performances in Paris and one at Versailles.
Cecilia has received numerous awards, prizes and scholarships. After graduating from the University of Sydney in English literature and European languages, Cecilia was awarded a scholarship to extend her creative practice in poetry, visual arts and performance in Mannheim and Duisburg, Germany. Two Goethe Institut awards followed for study in Berlin. In 2011 Cecilia received an APA to undertake her PhD at UNSW. In 2012 at the University of Newcastle she received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for establishing the breath and creativity focused five year program Wellness@UoN. This program was built from the intersection of her creative practice and Honours in Psychology (UNE 2008).
The works, technical skills and awareness developed in Paris, Rome and Nottingham contributed to her 2016 research papers in Sheffield and Bristol, panel discussions, exhibitions, papers for the History of Emotions conferences at the University of Adelaide (2017) and University of Western Australia (2018) and the contemplative unfolding and presentation of her practice, writing and research in 2019.
image source: Hans-Christian Jenssen