Taboo Blood: Text and reflections

A text piece about the physiology of Womanhood

A trail of blood – a term most often associated with violence and conflict.

Yet – for a large and significant part of a woman’s life she will leave a trail of blood on a monthly basis. It is “normal” – to be expected – it is part of a natural cycle. Yet like all trails of blood it can be violent – and cause conflict – within the body and mind.

Biologically the human female cycle is signified by the regular shedding of blood – but individual experiences of the menstrual cycle are neither constant nor regular or unified. They are many, varied and often misunderstood.

For some women the trail runs smoothly along the path of life – but for a few it almost kills them. It is associated with the passing of time, waiting, relief and disappointment, mild discomfort and severe pain – and with being unclean, cursed, and impure. It can be a time both of freedom and confinement, of exclusion – and solidarity. It is what brings us towards other women – and separates us from the opposite sex.

How many men have really seen a sodden sanitary towel?

By the time a woman reaches the menopause the trail of blood will finally have dried out – the system of excretion shut down. And by then she will have seen something in the region of 14000 sodden towels – or pulled out dripping tampons – without ever fainting at the sight of blood.

For many people the relationship with blood is complex. A general perception is that it is only seen outside the body when something is desperately wrong. So blood enters the realm of the abject – that which we are not comfortable with – the stuff we do not wish to encounter – the uncanny. Yet it is an integral part of what we are – and sometimes it leaves our body – for good or bad.

 

My work That Time focuses on this natural cycle. It shows some of what is involved – for good and bad. The blood becomes visual rather than hidden away – it is elevated and on display. Some of the pieces are made in pure white porcelain – others are endless processions of reds rendered in glass. The deliberate choice of materials gives permanence to states that are transient – for glass and porcelain last a long time – they prevail.

However, this is a body of work that is ongoing. For my intention is for medical, personal and societal responses to mingle. Some will be embedded within the work – others purely fabricated in the mind of the viewer.

To this extent I have recently begun the process of collecting women’s stories about menstruation. Personal accounts of a purely female experience will eventually sit alongside the physical embodiment of that experience. Snippets of stories gathered from women, become real and valid – they find a place in the world.