I'm not sure whom to attribute this sculpture from the exhibition Let the Power Take a Female Form. by a trio of matrilineal artists: Eugenia Butler, Eugenia P. Butler, and Corazon del Sol (see galley site here for more details). This was the only photograph I was able to take during the show, because I had attended a crowded, closing reception that involved an engaging discussion by Anya de Marie regarding metaformic philosophy. So, space and time did not allow for the kind of presentation I typically prefer regarding art for this blog. Apologies aside, this work means a great deal to me, and I find it quite apropos, literally and symbolically, within the present context of the show and its hopeful reverberations both past and future.
Let me start by saying that I liked this piece for so many reasons including personal ones. Without making this about me per se, I'd like to first discuss it in relationship to a work that I had once imagined which is quite similar in concept, but slightly different in form. (It can be exciting to see similar ideas amongst peers!) Conceptually, terms such as power, male/female connections (the vernacular within electrical work, as one example), connectivity, currency, continuity, infinity and so on, all arise for me in this work. In the context of this show, however, I am reading it through a lens of female power relations per the exhibition title, the artists involved, and the discussion that would ensue said evening. Formally about the work, one might consider the color of the physical line as well as how the cord was spliced to ensure that both ends would be male in order to connect to both wall outlets. I also thought about necklace, umbilicus, tether, et al...
As an aside, (and this is the personal part I mentioned) when I was in graduate school at ArtCenter College of Design, the main exhibition space for our use as students had an inordinate number of electrical outlets around the entire space, more than enough to be sure. I occasionally wondered what it would be like to connect cords between all the plugs in some kind of configuration, but taut and rigid (not unlike the yarn game cats-in-the-cradle that would be demonstrated and participated amongst audience members during de Marie's talk at The Box later this night). Because during that earlier time in grad school I was thinking about issues of spatial flow in relationship to space itself, it made sense to be reminded of this upon discovering the work here as well; it's still part of what's important to me. And, I think the work pictured here is open enough to allow multiple readings despite what I think might be its intent as a closed loop.
So, this physically closed, yet mentally open-ended work here functions well by its simplicity and elegance. Thusly, it fosters awareness about memory (personal and social), space/time, history, and power relations in the literal as it pertains to object and place. Word associations themselves here could open volumes regarding human, environmental and technological conditions. So based on these factors, it seems fitting that this particular work would situate in my mind regarding the evening's discussion about metaformic philosophy, particularly as it pertains to ritual and cycles of time both large and small.
In terms of the evening's discourse, Anya de Maria delineated three main tenets of metaformic philosophy, as follows:
1. Ancestral females observed a connection between menstrual cycles and moon cycles. While by now a long, well-known fact, this was an important connection to establish originally, at some much earlier point in time.
2. During this cycle, they created "timed seclusions" not as a matter of exclusion by men as would seem so often cliche by today's hackneyed standards but one of inclusion for women. This inclusion was meant to be a time of empowerment. In this social space among women, it is suggested that arts and culture arose as one kind of expression. Evidence involved painting of red on bodies, a practice still found in parts of the world today, such as areas in southern Africa. Northern Australia came to mind for me also with regards to aboriginal groups, but this did not come up in the discussion or if it did more as a passing glance. One can't help but think about the color red in terms of both bodily fluid and means for expression. Certainly, there are historical records elsewhere.
3. At this same time historically, non bleeding individuals (men) were developing their own blood-based rituals. One quickly starts thinking about fighting (war) and other forms of violence that produce blood, but, again, this was not discussed at any length because the focus of the discussion was about the female experience, again, per the context of the show.
So, my takeaway from this discussion, as a man (both a non-bleeder and now breeder for what its worth), is how the value of a woman's menstrual cycle in earlier times was seen as a time of strength rather than one of weakness as it so often, unfortunately, considered today. I'm interested in how this perception has evolved over time, and how we can restore confidence in the values of a woman's body AND ALSO the human body as a whole. And by body, we must think of ourselves as individuals and as groups, perhaps collectives in the current vernacular. As a way to continue such an important discussion, I propose starting with a premise that involves synthesizing a more diverse population of participants along a greater spectrum towards such issues that could more accurately reflect the current needs for shared powers. So much more to say here.... (and it certainly occurred to my by sharing thoughts about my own work in viewing this one here that I am complicit in this matrix of power relations. It felt like a risk worth taking on my part, and I mean to take nothing away from this work by connecting my male version). So, complex, an undulating line in space...