Drawing

Writing in Blood

For Irigaray, blood is simultaneously metaphorical and literal, a foundation of female sense and sexuality.  She writes, “[y]our blood is translated into their senses” (1)  which refers to a wordplay between sang (blood) and sens (sense/direction) which extends the parallel between sexuality and writing. Irigaray’s celebration of menstrual symbolism creates an inter-textual link with Helene Cixous and her notion of Écriture Féminine, which literally means ‘gendered women’s writing.’  Therefore, menstrual blood becomes a pigment that embodies the creative value of women.

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Spanish artist Isa Sanz’s photographic self-portrait, Alquimia (Alchemy) (2007) depicts the artist with blood between her fingers as she writes the word amor (love) on the wall. The blood ink comes from the fountain of menstrual blood that cascades down her legs.  This creative deed becomes an ‘alchemy labour’, a purifying act where the abject transforms into clean fluid, a natural feminine essence.  Using blood to inscribe the body parallels another artist, Cuban Ana Mendieta in her performative painting, Untitled (Blood Sign) (1974) she scripted in blood ‘She got love, there is a devil inside of me’.  Sanz creates homage to the Cuban artist because of their joint concerns of the cyclical nature of life birth, death and re-birth  and through the use of the body as a medium for expressing in blood.

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(1) Luce Irigaray, ‘This Sex which Is Not One’, in Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory, eds., Kate Conboy, Nadia Medina and Sarah Stanbury, (New York, Colombia Press, 1997), 69.

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Vagina Painting (1965) – Shigeko Kubota

Kubota’s Fluxus performance was performed at the Perpetual Fluxus festival in 1965. Upon dipping the paintbrush into a pale of red paint, meant to invoke menstrual blood, she crouched over large rolls of white paper spread out on the floor, and pushed down against the paper to make marks. Painting in a horizontal direction above the painting surface is a gesture to the eastern calligraphic tradition as the individual movements painted with the brush created red script-like marks on a crisp white background. Kristine Stiles asserts that Kubota’s performance “[r]edefined Action Painting according to the codes of female anatomy”1 insofar as Jackson Pollack can be considered to have ‘masturbated’ and ‘ejaculated’ paint upon horizontal un-stretched canvas. Vagina Painting makes a comment on the tradition of masculine Action Painting, by trespassing on patriarchal aesthetics.  Kubota’s spatial art practice is gestural and painterly and blurs the boundaries of masculinist approaches to artmaking. Vagina Painting is a cyclic expression of women’s difference that plays upon the semiotic between vagina as sexual organ and menstruation.

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