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Enjoy Journal | Bloody Women Artists

via Enjoy Journal | Bloody Women Artists by Ruth Green-Cole.

While there are isolated cases of reverence for menstruation, in general, many societies impose a strict set of rules about the visualisation of menstrual blood in art and visual culture. The hegemonic and patriarchal codes controlling the discussion and visualisation of menstruation have been formed over long periods of time by various traditional communities, Orthodox religious authorities and the patriarchal medical gaze. Ultimately, these views have been internalised by millions of women worldwide as both negative and shameful. Over time, menstruation has developed a fraught and complicated semiotic,1 one further influenced by the role of the vagina as a sex organ; concerning reproduction, and the censorship involved in exposing body parts. This raises the question, if menstruation happened in another part of the body, one that is not associated with intercourse, would it have the same stigma? In the same way, the continuous concealment of the reproductive body from society (the practice of menstrual etiquette, a homebound pregnant women and the sexualised breast) has created the false assumption that a leaky body is unnatural, and that when it is concealed, the body is acting normally.2

Luce Irigaray has observed “[f]luids are implicitly associated with femininity, maternity, menstruation and the body. Fluids are subordinated to that which is concrete and solid.”3 Therefore, the body is something that should be controlled to enable a prescribed representation of self-identity. In particular, menstruation has been codified as an uncontrollable bodily function that needs to be organised, managed and contained. Hence the cyclic continuation of performative acts to create the appearance of a ‘natural’ state. Judith Butler explains, “gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender and without those acts there would be no gender at all. Gender is thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis.”4 To understand menstruation as gendered blood is to recognise the ritualisation of difference through cleansing practices, psychoanalytic classifying and other constructs that affect the position of women.

During the early sixties, some years before the growth of an organised feminist movement in the visual arts, Fluxus artists Shigeko Kubota and Carolee Schneemann positioned their bodies in, and as, their art. They employed the modernist language of abstract expressionism, but in contrast to its patriarchal expectations. These artists were “interested in debunking or overthrowing modernism because of its supposedly reactionary desire to ensure artist presence”5 and its dismissal of body art projects. The female artist’s body became a gesturing, expressive body, a mode of projecting non-conformity, suffering, activism and excess “as a way of laying claim to ‘being’ itself.”6 As Kubota said in her Video Poem(1968-76), “I, a woman, feel, ‘I Bleed, therefore I am’.”7

Follow the above link to read the full article…

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Egyptian Mummies and Voyeurism

Rosetta Stone

My one main stop en route to Lisbon was to visit The British Museum in London [and visit my dear sister]. I decided that rather than try to see a bit of everything, that I would select one section to view in detail. I picked the Egyptian section as this is hailed as a must-see.   The first object I encountered was the Rosetta Stone. I managed to get right up the front of the crowd have a good close look at the hieroglyphs (they are quite small and fine chiselled) but I was quite aware that I was annoying people.  What I noticed immediately was that many visitors are more concerned with taking a photograph of an object rather than ‘looking’ and ‘seeing’ the object in the space of the museum. Yes, I am usually one to photograph an object in a collecting institution (if the practice is allowed). However, I prefer only to take pictures of objects that I am particularly drawn to or that I intend to look at again, and, for pictorial research. Many visitors would point and shoot randomly at objects not even bothering to look at them.  I wondered if these snap-happy visitors would look back at their photos later? Personally, I find it a bit strange to visit a museum or gallery and default to viewing the objects down the barrel of the camera; or in many cases these days via a smartphone held out between the viewer and the object. What does this say about the interaction between the object and the audience?  That it is more important to document the visit to the museum than to encounter the presence of the artifact?   Egypt has become consumed by consumerism.  Like the Mona Lisa, the Rosetta Stone and all Egyptian art have become ‘cultural capital’.  In another direction, there appears to be a simulacrum of Darth Vader upon the surface of the vitrine containing the Rosetta Stone. As part of photographing exhibits in museum cases – the reflection of the photographer and other visitors leave an impression, imprint, or reflected image that layers over the artifact.

IMG_1806Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned but I struggled with the physicality of overcrowding and cacophony of voices in the collection rooms. Headphones allowed me to regain some element of quietness. I made my way through the large Egyptian monuments, statues and sarcophagi downstairs and then upstairs to the rest of the Egyptian collection.  What I encountered downstairs was nothing compared to the room that housed the Egyptian mummy collection.  I experienced complete inter-repulsion (the juxtaposition of desire and repulsion) at wanting to look as these ornate mummy cases containing embalmed and bound bodies while simultaneously feeling repulsed by the voyeurism happening in this room. Coupled with some guilt at participating in the act of taking photographs of ancient objects and remains from pillaged Egyptian tombs.

When I came upon an ornate mummy case that once belonged to a high-born female, I noticed that the Kohl tear running down her cheek was all that remained of her missing lapis lazuli eye evoking an all-pervading sense of ‘trespassing’. The exhibition room was filled with many Egyptian mummies and petrified bodies in vitrines – I felt like the aura of each of the mummies was still present in the space.

At this point, I left the Egyptian section, and around the very next corner I found ‘The Queen of the Night’, terracotta relief from Mesopotamia dated between 1765-1745 BC. This discovery refreshed me and led me to explore all of the Ancient Civilisation sections for the female divine.

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