Blood and Iron in the Temple of Menses

“I’ve surely made mistakes in the community, but certainly not in sexuality.” – Otto Muehl


By Brad Feuerhelm, ASX, January 2015

The Vienna Actionists of 1960’s were interested in the documentation of transgression of the body in art and in society at large. They performed quasi-mystic rituals that were documented in blood and film. The main act of transgression was to involve the “aktion” of the body in pain or symbolically being covered in viscera or concentrated on the profuse letting of blood as seen predominantly in the work of Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwartzkogler. Schwartzkogler’s own death would be incorrectly mythologized for decades as a suicide/self-castration.

When observing the Aktionist performance of transgression and anti-corpus mode of operation, one tends to qualify these methods with slight trepidation and discomfort. After all, the body in pain is a universal symbol of death. When witnessing blood loss, one promptly considers his/her own mortality and its body memory is somehow at odds with its own qualifications of its origins, which were also covered in iron rich blood. In the work of 9mouth, perhaps this is a missed opportunity to examine blood as a sequestered ritual of life through menses worship.

Menses is the coagulated mucosal tissue that women pass every 28 days as part of their menstrual cycles. This passing is often associated with the passing of potential child bearing endeavors. There is in effect then, an association of life in the display of menses as opposed to that of death. Chinese photographer 9mouth purports to document this reverie of blood and femininity in his zine “Menstrual”. Much like fellow Chinese artist Ren Hang, whose super-sexualized body of work is creating waves in Capital/Communist China, 9mouth has focused mostly on the female nude over that of the actual act of menstruation. This is kind of a missed opportunity in a way.

In the work, one can imply the fragrant smell of flowers blooming and an overwhelming olfactory sense of salinated blood and the waft of Iron. It reacts as a cauldron of imagined sensibility, visceral by nature. There are alas, only two photographs of visible blood. There are allusions more to the sexuality of the photographer and his desires that to that of the topic at hand, or womb.


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In the work, one can imply the fragrant smell of flowers blooming and an overwhelming olfactory sense of salinated blood and the waft of Iron.


Regarding sex, 9mouth seems interested in sexuality in so much as it relates to a single figure of a woman and perhaps his own need to photograph her in sexualized positions or having a piss. The result of which is to standardize the work and the female Chinese body into the normalized tradition of the Westernized ideal of the female body. Again, this is a bit of a missed opportunity as it would have been much more interesting to not only focus on the hidden Chinese nude, but instead for that of the female body under duress of menstruation without the intervention of the sexualized body. This is something rarely covered in the west outside of 1970’s feminist works like “Interior Scroll” by Carolee Schneeman or the works of the aforementioned Aktionists, whose work was foremost and decidedly masculine. A small and tightly edited affair for Editions Bessard, the zine is an interesting foray into femininity, China, and the male gaze of life at its origins and interiors. That being said, the title is perhaps a bit misleading, and it points at the futility of covering this fascinating topic by letting a dick get in the way.





Editions Bessard

(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm, images @ 9mouth.)

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