The Hysteria Project
For my new work, the Hysteria Project, I am listening to women, non-binary people, and trans men about their experiences with menstruation dysfunction, and using their stories as the motivation to create individual collage ‘portraits’ of the respondents’ reproductive systems. These life-sized, intimate works are made from cameraless photographs of lace on a metal leaf background.
People who menstruate are often seen as the medical ‘other’. When we experience pain or excessive bleeding regarding menstruation, it is too often disregarded, and treated as ‘normal’ by the medical field. The way our bodies are treated is a kind of trauma on top of the trauma of the illness itself. Various cultures -including my own- treat menstruation as dirty and shameful, something to be hidden at all costs. Because it is hidden, and not often discussed openly, it’s easy to miss when something is wrong. These issues, plus cultural biases, mean that there is a gap in our cultural awareness about menstruation and the problems around it. People need to be heard. The Hysteria Project bears witness to stories of people who menstruate about their experiences with this crucial aspect of our lives.
This is the beginning of this project; eventually there will be a one-on-one storytelling network where people who have menstruation difficulties share their experiences. Their personal stories become part of a growing archive, so that they may be a resource for others who are seeking information and validation. The stories (and the collages I make from them) will be archived on a dedicated website that will be searchable by symptom and diagnosis, so people can see other stories of others experiencing similar things as they are. Once someone has shared their story, they will be able to sign up to be a listener, so they may bear witness to someone else's experience, and grow the network and project.