Visualising Menstruation: Gendered Blood in Contemporary Art

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dc.contributor.advisor Minnisale, G en Green-Cole, Ruth en 2014-09-19T01:10:01Z en 2014 en
dc.identifier.citation 2014 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description Full text is available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland only. en
dc.description.abstract This thesis will examine how menstruation and, more specifically, menstrual blood, is made visible and interpreted by contemporary artists. Visual analysis is centered on exploring how different art mediums such as painting and printmaking, photography and installation allow us to shape new understandings of and relationships to menstruation. They challenge or transgress the taboos around menstruation supported by various religious, social, scientific and mass media structures which have ultimately influenced women’s experiences of their own bodies and natural processes. Many social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation are intricately linked to the affective recognition of blood, which then becomes gendered and socially excluded as menstruation, but many cultural traditions add further negative values to such blood, associating it with pollution, abjection and inferiority. This may be because menstruation is normally and tacitly understood as destabilising the boundaries between inside and outside of the body, private and public, natural and reviled. Anthropological research highlights that in many cultures, there are deep-seated fears that menstruation is ‘unclean’ and ‘polluted’. Mary Douglas discusses pollution as the notion of symbolic contamination, whereas taboo is the supernaturally sanctioned law that governs bodies in societies reifying the taboo. Added to this in various ways across cultural differences are traditional layers of decorum, social exclusion and opprobrium where women’s bodies and natural processes are not to be broached in the open, a code of silence is enforced differently from culture to culture, and perhaps even family to family. Menstruation is one of the main markers of sexual difference; it is ‘gendered blood’ that divides and distinguishes women, and that has made them in many cases by association, the subjects of taboo. This suggests that cultural traditions that stigmatise menstruation, either tacitly or methodically, using hygiene, aesthetic values, religious ideology or superstition to support this, also place women closer to the negative traits associated with menstruation. Menstrual blood is feminised blood, and in the other direction, femininity is associated with ‘dirty’ blood. One of the main tools used to maintain this stigma is to erase the presence of the scene of menstruation in speech, image and representation. By publically acknowledging and making visible menstruation, the works I examine in this thesis are instrumental in undermining this stigma. However, this process of undermining also manages to bring about changes in what we assume to be the function and value of art. en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof Masters Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Previously published items are made available in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. en
dc.rights Restricted Item. Available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland. en
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dc.title Visualising Menstruation: Gendered Blood in Contemporary Art en
dc.type Thesis en The University of Auckland en Masters en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The Author en
pubs.elements-id 456767 en
pubs.record-created-at-source-date 2014-09-19 en

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