The art festival ‘Hic Est Sanguis Meus: The Blood of Women’ is both oppressive and liberating. It revolves around one of the last taboos of western civilization: the menstrual cycle. The participating artists’ ages range from 18 to 80, meaning that this exhibition can talk to women of all ages and nations.
Starting from the festival’s very title, powerful religious leitmotivs are to be found everywhere. ‘Hic Est Sanguis Meus’ are the words uttered by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper: ‘this is my blood’. Biblical words are painted on the walls, framing many of the artworks. As may be expected, red is a prominent colour.
But rather than straightforwardly criticising religion’s attitude towards menstruation, the two curators – Micol Singarella and Paola Daniele – have planned this event as a liberating experience. “We want to break a taboo. But we are a collective and we therefore have different opinions. Every time we get together, we talk it all over from the very beginning” says Daniele, a professional modern dancer and choreographer. Daniele opened the festival with her performance Hématome, an ode to women and her flowings. Moving between broken mirrors, glasses and red roses she exposes herself to the public: “The female body is quite unknown to the people, even in the era of Internet, or it is seen only in a pornographic way”, she adds.
The more delicate aspect of the exhibition surfaced as a conscious attempt to reconcile this hidden aspect of femininity. “We want to have a didactic role and work with schools to help the new generation understand the female body in its whole without unnecessary embarrassment”, says Daniele. German artists and media have enthusiastically responded, says Singarella, proving that the social taboo or constant embarrassment is a common trait in most of Europe.
Entering the exhibition I was initially reluctant, feeling uncomfortable in the middle of this large exposition of personal experiences. However, the exhibition highlighted the strong need for a new approach to the human body for both sexes. This exhibition is not only aimed at women. Men can also learn a thing or two from this open discussion over such a poorly known aspect of everyday life. Especially revealing are the quotations from teen movies about being a sexual disappointment, or complaining about periods being the source of migraines. The collective formed especially for this tour includes both women and men artists, showing how there is an understanding and interest from both parts.
Silence and rejection don’t help overcoming cultural taboos or ease the pain. Even in the Internet era, confusion rules. A friend of mine, now barely approaching her 30s, has told me that no one ever mentioned the impeding monthly uneasiness she was going to face until it finally happened.
As much as the matter may scream sensationalism, its soft approach cast the exhibition under a different light. The topic is treated carefully, mixed with an honest effort for artistic quality. This is an exhibition for those looking for an intimate and multiform approach to femininity without gender borders.
For further information on ‘Hic Est Sanguis Meus’, visit their website.
By Guido Mori