Poor is the prince who tries to take one of the shoes that Anamusma distributes through her revisited tales, because he runs the risk of being attacked by a vagina-dentata or of the clog rotting like beef in his hands.
The shoe is one of the fetishes that Ana Vázquez (Anamusma) has managed to transgress the submission of women to aesthetic conventions, establishing linguistic and conceptual parallelisms between the stiletto heel and the surgical punch or the butcher knife (Descarnadas 2017 ). Either mimicking the Galician gorse with a red shoe, so that the plant’s toothed profile (in the form of a trap) is impregnated with the “fatal” sensuality of the evening shoes.
The intangible heritage and the undocumented legacy (for belonging to habits and customs that relegated women to the home) lead many of Anamusma’s researches. Without leaving aside the irony, it makes us realize that the Judeo-Christian morality continues to weigh on our psyche, although camouflaged in apparently less severe forms than in pious times.
She is skilled confronting concepts in our subconscious, opening spigots, as when she leads us to imagine herself eating bananas while is reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of women’s rights. In that methodical action (attending the moon cycle) underlies a confrontation between an image that the pornographic industry has loaded with sexist lust and the reading of that manifesto written almost two centuries before the word “feminism” began to be used.
In this project, Cubiertas de piel, you sew those banana skins and you mummified Wollstonecraft’s texts, and then kept them in crystal wombs. For you, the actions and their products have similar value, right? These often take the form of votive offerings, reliquaries … objects linked to the Christian liturgy, alluding to the sense of expiation of guilts invented by the patriarchal system?
Right … I think that guilt is a perfect and effective tool for all those who want to dominate the other … and about that the Judeo-Christian tradition immersed in the patriarchal society knows a lot.
The sin, being internalized and incorporated within each individual, guarantees the perpetuity of it, regardless of whether the original system that inoculated it is expressed explicitly or not … Generate guilt and go to sleep …
I think guilt should not be “expiated” because it means a sacrifice that generates more guilt … I prefer to detect its hiding place, “spy”, follow it with patience to see where it goes and seize the moment the it is clueless to eliminate it or at least weaken it … with no “mercy” This is the way I try to follow with my projects …
But there is something I have to say in its favour, the best thing that blame or sin have is their plastic expression… that’s what I use because it seems to me of an incomparable power… Catholic culture materializes guilt in the form of velvets, bones, wax, gold, brocades, darkness, gestures of ecstasy, sensuality … aesthetically it is fascinating!
In the installation “Cepo para lobos” (2016), you turned around the double archetype of the helpless child-woman and the werewolf (the male sexual instinct as brutish and irrepressible) extrapolating Galician folklore themes (gorse’s vulvas and the legendary figure of the lycanthrope) to the universal myth that has conditioned a relationship between sexes based on mutual fear. Ancestral fears come into play to perpetuate gender roles. Is it like that?
I think so. The best defense is the attack … the violence masks fear towards that to which it is directed.
I was fascinated by the mesoamerican myth of the Vagina Dentata that narrates the ancestral fear of men to be castrated by the teeth that imagine women have between their legs… showing a fearful man and an empowered woman, unlike the legends and Western stories where this is reversed. The woman is the fearful and the man is the ferocious beast… Thus, merging myths and legends of diverse origins we see that fear seems to be mutual on the part of men and women, as well as the underlying violence which results in power struggles.
Cepo para lobos arises from the work done during a solitary retreat in an abandoned farm of my father’s family in Lugo. When I arrived I found a german shepherd with which I lived one month, just him and me.
The “wolf” was very afraid when I touched him, it cost me to earn his trust and I, first nights of darkness and loneliness swore that I will leave the house the next day, scared, especially because the people of the villages did not stop reminding me that I was a woman and that there, “soliña”, in the mountains, I could meet some “desaprensivo” (unscrupulous man)… Finally, the dog let being caressed, we became great companions, and I stayed there the rest of the month, overlooking warnings of villagers about potential men harasses… Neither “unscrupulous” nor lycanthropes never appeared … I like to imagine that the “wolf” and I healed our mutual fears and that’s why we could live together in harmony that time …
It’s curious how your experiences, which often are related with medical issues (a thyroid operation, suffering from bruxism…), inspire you projects that go through the history of women from the domestic sphere (eg, sewing as a metaphor for encrypted writing), and where the cultural interferes with the physiological (anxiety, forced silence …)
Before studying Fine Arts I started Medicine and then I also studied psychology… I always have been a brainy person. My interest in the biological body and its relationship with the environment also comes from a long time ago. Anthropology is also a reference source for me.
I constantly debate between the us and the self, between the collective and the individual … I use to start from the autobiographical but with a distant attitude… I consider that I am like a representative sample of humanity that is available for me to explore as I desire… So, I work from my own, but to leave myself… experiences, emotions, thoughts and personal behaviors are a starting point for experimentation in ways of thinking, feeling and doing that are supposed to be extrapolated to a universal “we”. This method often takes me to the collective and other times it leaves me in a loop, spinning around myself, unable to leave, like the laboratory mouse on the scroll wheel …
This and other actions that you have carried out during a certain time period (taking infusions…) remind me of the periodic records that conceptual artists like On Kawara or body artists like Dennis Oppenheim undertook, but when you are counting time according to the phases of the moon (a menstrual cycle) and associating infusions with passions… the aseptic objectivity of conceptual tradition are transformed into empowered feminine subjectivity.
These two pieces to which you refer are calendars where, in effect, the purpose is to register a subjective time filled with narrations during an objective period of time, similar to what is done when writing a diary …
Remedios caseros para digerir las pasiones (2014) is the record of a emotionally difficult year in which as a “poetic therapy” it is proposed to take a palliative infusion of the overflowing emotion lived in the day (I love you, I hate you, I desire you, I miss you …) and keep the used tea bags to assemble a calendar that reflected an hectic year in a person’s life … time heals everything if there is a will to do so …
Cubiertas de piel, as you mentioned, is a moon calendar of menstruation and relates this biological fact culturally so stigmatized and rejected with texts of Vindication of the rights of women. The action is the intake (according to this calendar) of the phallic symbol par excellence, a banana, which is reduced to a mummified skin and sewed with the powerful texts of Mary Wollstonecraft, that also are read during this length of time.
You recently participated in a project curated by Andrea Perissinotto in Theredoom Gallery, where he invited you to materialize in a visual piece what the “letter to the father”, written by Alejandro Molina Bravo, suggested you. The transmission of gender values, which you have treated so much in the feminine sphere, here was applied to the masculine, taking as a starting point the confessions that Kafka’s father would never get to read. Does your word “silence” made with human hair refers to this intergenerational hiatus?
Yes, indeed. The “silence” that hides rebukes and anger towards the family reflects an universal and necessary generational breakdown in order to grow and “Shave (Father’s Letter)” is an afterwards confession of the sensations experienced in that transition to adulthood.
Growing hurts in all respects; the body changes and the social norms that control these physical transformations appear… My beard grows for the first time … I have to shave it as a rite of passage to an adult age in a society that represses the hairy monster of childhood … To leave childhood behind is a duel that supposes rebukes, fear, confusion, anger… with oneself, with the family and with the world full of norms that you have to face, constantly deciding whether you shave or not …
Alejandro’s text moved me a lot… even if it focuses on a supposed male act of shaving. I felt very identified when relating it to the cumbersome hair removal or to the first menstruation… they are rites of passage that lead to emotional disillusionment and body pain: to cut hair, to bleed… In this sense I see it as a text without gender despite the theme.
I love how the letter begins by saying that the razor is given to him by his father on Three Kings Day: all the magic constructed by family traditions suddenly collapse. Now is revealed as a carrier of sinister toys designed to remove our instincts and thus to be presentable to a world full of social conventions… but the instinct has hair follicle and grows again… Careful!
The choice of the word was a joint decision with Andrea Perissinotto, artist and curator, with whom I worked hand in hand throughout the process of gestation and birth of the project … let’s say that this silence is a son with two parents, Andrea and Alejandro, and I… a mother proud to conceiving a beautiful furry monster.
The word is extracted and eliminated from Alejandro’s text (Shaving), leaving in the printed letter a void, a “silence” in the paper caused by an absence that is oversized and written on the wall with hair using the same typography as in the letter. Silence shouts with resounding presence.
The gallerist Andrea Piedralzar patiently accompanied me in the delivery of two days that lasted the production of the piece, and at birth we were surprised how the creature filled the entire gallery space in spite of being a minimalist installation. It was also encouraging during this process the visits of Carmen Isasi, who exhibited her project Congelados de la memoria in the neighboring room.
The idea of liberation of these inherited corsets is very present in your work: crochet straitjackets made with toilet paper as thread (“Mi kasita de papel”, Wed Festival 2017), lush hair growing in the wedding dress in “Mutagenesis dirigida”, or even the torn stockings of “pantys religiosa” with which you participate in the group exhibition “When we met”. Tell us about this latest project.
Praying panties, like Descarnadas (dissections with stiletto) plays again with words. It is an open series of modules made with torn pantyhoses donated by many women, stretched and torn on cardboard and arranged together forming an inverted cross.
In this installation, the Judeo-Christian tradition still weighs in the way of inhabiting the body. The defiant, active and desiring woman is converted by the collective imaginary into a mantis, into a man-eating monster… Again the mutual fear about which I reflected on with Cepo para lobos. The torn tights of various women talk about the desire and disobedience building a common body in the form of a defiant inverted cross that invokes sin…
Formerly the entrance to Catholic acts were forbidden to women with bare legs, they had to be covered with stockings to access these sacred precincts… Tensing and tearing the pantyhose is a provocative action, a rupture; it is a gesture already used by the punk subculture as an expression of rebellion that curiously has a biblical origin (the tearing of one’s clothes)…
Tonia Trujillo, artist and founder of Espacio 13 in Seville, has given me all the facilities to install a variation of this piece in large format, given the size of her room, which is colossal.
The project contains more variations (anatomical pantyhose, digital pantyhose …) and is proposed as a path, a kind of Via Crucis in which the guilt is eliminated trying to reach other forms of being a body…
Some of the modules that make up the piece were adapted to illustration to accompany the heartbreaking and passionate collection of poems Zumo de anclas, by Pilar Sanabria, published in Susana Noeda’s Adeshoras editorial.
Interviewed by Anna Adell