Octavia Perna

My practice is driven by looking at the body: the physical, the internal and the visceral. I approach this through the context of my own body, employing automatic drawing, text, collage, sculpture, video, performance and installation.

Final Major Project: 2003

My Final Major Project examines the effect of surgical alteration on both the corporeal and abject states of my body – which although structurally realigned, deals with the residing detachment.

The methodologies used, most prolifically performance of lived experiences, focus on using the body as a direct reference or tool to produce embodied work.

Unconventional processes have been tested and refined. These ‘photographs’ were taken on photosensitive paper inside my mouth, using my lips as an aperture inspired by the method pioneered by Lindsay Seers.

Materiality is highly important to my practice and each is selected for its properties and sensitivity. This metal plaque, clinical and cold, reflects the inner metal implants in my body to simulate the feeling of its existence.


My ‘Action Painting’ performances have been inspired by the techniques of Paul McCarthy and Carolee Shneemann to channel intimate personal experience. Graphite has been industrially taped with grey duct tape to my spine, leaving traces of my movements on the paper.

Other work during Foundation

Developed from a personal crossroads during rotation at the beginning of the year, I was able to channel my strong emotions in direct manners that were new to me – automatic drawing and writing. I used to revise my ideas multiple times until I got them ‘right’: these automatic methods pushed perfectionism to the side, allowing for vulnerability and the beauty from it.

Investigation of the noun ‘Surfaces’ begun by literally looking at reducing the surface (through burning), then the abstract of being surface-level using text to dig below my own surface. With this as a backbone, I created concise plaques, a faux missing poster and video of layered speech. These were installed, materialising to immerse others in my conclusions.  

Research for my work then started to be conducted through introspection, looking at my body as a site of reference, inspiration and context. I photographed the physical self with projections of pre- and post-surgery x-rays. I also worked with sculpture to produce a simplification of my spinal implant, conveying meaning through simulation of both structure and materials. Performance felt daunting, but in admiration of Marina Abramović’s ‘Rhythm 0’ I cut a pristine dress as a natural confrontation of the frustration uncovered. Its exhibition created an intimate response to the work of my body, an ode to the intangible parts of my psyche displayed in a physical way.

Throughout my Foundation themes of the corporeal experience consistently manifested, informing a proposed further dissection. Projects which have used introspection and personality, working with the body as a central muse, have resulted most authentic: often in an installation to display the multidisciplinary aspects. I built upon the year’s findings, culminating them into an ‘Extension’ project – a retrospective of the connection and disconnection from my body – and continued to examine the female body in the context of my own throughout my Final Major Project.

Visionary Thinkers

Visionary Creators

Visionary Makers