The underground film Daddy (1973), a collaboration by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle and British countercultural filmmaker Peter Whitehead, is a sexually explicit surrealist pop-art Freudian rape revenge fantasy. It stems from de Saint Phalle's autobiographical narrative of parental abuse and the development of a young girl's sexuality. Deploying a performance studies lens to focus on performance practice and process, this article takes a new methodological approach to the film that could be applied to other avant-garde cinematic practices. Drawing on previously unseen materials and examining a key and frequently underexplored element of female labor within film, this essay traces the skills, training, and experiences shaping female performative labor, and demonstrates that Daddy's interrogation of sexual politics and displays of female sexual expression depended on this labor. Dissecting it offers revealing insights into the complex and frequently hidden dynamics of control and agency underpinning Daddy's artistic and sexual collaborations.
“Am I Providing a Good Show for You?”: Female Performance, Labor and Collaborative Agency in Niki de Saint Phalle and Peter Whitehead's Daddy (1973)
Alissa Clarke is senior lecturer in drama at De Montfort University, Leicester. She co-curates the Cinema and Television History Institute's Peter Whitehead Archive. In connection with the archive, she has coproduced a series of events at the Royal Albert Hall (2017) and an event on “Women of the Counterculture” at London's Regent Street Cinema (2018). Clarke's research interests include gender and performance (live and on-screen), classical Hollywood cinema, contemporary performance, and performer training. She has published in these areas in books and periodicals, including Theatre, Dance and Performance Training; The Drama Review; and the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice.
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Alissa Clarke; “Am I Providing a Good Show for You?”: Female Performance, Labor and Collaborative Agency in Niki de Saint Phalle and Peter Whitehead's Daddy (1973). Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2019; 5 (2): 148–180. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2019.5.2.148
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