From popular culture to religious beliefs, menstruation has always been viewed as quite the taboo subject. In my early teens, I read Stephen King’s Carrie and was nearly convinced that my menstruation would afford me the power of telekinesis. No luck. But it did provide me with an ongoing fascination for artists exploring the use of the body, bodily fluids — in particular blood — as a medium for their artistic practices and political expression.
Bay Area-based artist Xandra Ibarra, otherwise known as La Chica Boom, has been questioning the establishment and queering the art world with her provocative and highly dynamic performance work since the early 2000s. Her recent work “She’s on the Rag” (2013–2015) incorporates one of the most popular tools of Western psychological testing: the Rorschach test. Originally conceived by the Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach, the test was used as a means to investigate the emotional states of patients. For her piece, La Chica Boom creates inkblots out of her menstruation blood and, upon sending them to her buyers, asks them to respond to the imagery. Based on these consultations, she deciphers the designs’ potential meanings.
According to her artist statement, La Chica Boom seeks to “amplify gendered and racialized iconography and make such problematic constructions via spectacle more transparent to the spectator” — what she calls “spictacles,” or “camp spectacles of degeneracy and power.” In her performances series, Spictacles, she uses tropes such as the Virgin Mary and the dominatrix to question our conceptions of gender. In works like “Cucaracha Smiles” (2014), she challenges whiteness, patriarchy, and heteronormativity by undergoing “smile lipt surgery” with the aid of double-sided carpet tape that forces a smile. In her work and this interview, Ibarra provokes her viewers to think outside of the binary constructs that are so deeply embedded in Western thought.
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