Photo by Reema Yeager
Saturday night February 23, at 9 pm. For the duration of 45 minutes, at The Secret Group in East Downtown, Rosi entered stage right in a white hazmat suit. She wore a white sick mask and white latex gloves. Her medium-length brown hair was exposed, and in her arms, Rosi carried a red oxygen tank. Soft, pink spotlights illuminated the performance area as she made her way straight to center stage, put down the heavy tank, sat just behind it, and proceeded to fill several white balloons. After a dozen balloons littered the stage and the floor, Rosi stripped off the hazmat suit, until she was only wearing a white cropped shirt and white cloth tied around her waist. She descended onto a large, square white cloth and laid supine before she contorted her body, and ascended to her knees. A white unmarked box drew her attention, she picked it up, opened it, traveled back to center stage, and sat on the edge, directly in front of the tank, feet dangling over the side. Rosi nestled the box between her legs and held it open to the audience, displaying its contents. The inside was red, filled with pink deflated balloons.
Rosi got up and exited stage right. For a moment there was a question of “is it over already?”, but she returned with a large bundle of pink, floating balloons each printed with a small black fetus. She set down the floating bundle before she moved the white cloth onto a box behind the red tank. A soundtrack of human infants played in the background as Rosi proceeded to violently burst each balloon, releasing pink confetti into the air.
Only five balloons were left, when Rosi turned in profile and reached between her legs for several long seconds. She then removed her hands, took off the gloves, faced the audience, and reached between her legs once again. Long moments later, she removed her hands and rubbed them on her bare stomach, leaving smears of blood on her skin. As her face tilted up, she appeared lost in the sensation and in her own private moment.
Rosi sat down on the white cloth, the red tank between her legs, and fitted a giant, deflated white balloon to the nozzle of the tank. She inflated the balloon as everyone watched. It was larger than any of the others. It quickly became apparent there was giant confetti inside. The audience stood in rapt attention, barely breathing, watching the balloon wondering what would happen next.
BLAM! A gunshot-like sound shattered the silence making several people jump. The balloon exploded in large multicolored, round confetti, and the audience laughed nervously. Rosi got up, walked behind her seat, lifted the white cloth, and displayed a crimson stain where she’d been sitting, to the nervous crowd. Carefully, she wrapped the cloth around the red tank, picked up her bundle and carried it off stage cradled in her arms.
It is hard to say what this performance was about without adding my own bias, but I feel that is the beauty and power of art – the completion of the work through the viewer’s eyes. What I saw in this work was a dissection of the female reproduction cycle in the West, from the taboos surrounding menstruation, to our doctor centered birthing system. I saw metaphors in the balloons representing the vagina and uterus. I saw metaphors in the hazmat suit, gloves and sick mask representing our medical system. I felt myself disgusted as the menstrual blood was rubbed into the skin of the performer, thinking it was unhygienic and wrong, and wanted to look away, but couldn’t. After dissecting my feelings on the matter I gathered insight into the cultural and societal norms I’ve been surrounded with. I questioned why the blood that is ultimately life giving should fill me with such unease when approximately fifty percent of the people on the planet (including myself) deal with this very normal thing every cycle. Why should I be disgusted by the very thing that has given our species life? So many people find childbirth a miracle, it is celebrated, and yet it feels, to me, like everything leading up to it should be kept in the dark, out of sight, never discussed, not enjoyed. Not to mention, the lack of discussion surrounding the birth itself, which is not a neat and tidy process as the media makes it out to be. I even questioned the unnatural birthing practices we’ve instilled in our medical system that have been called ‘standard practice.’ Whether or not it was the intention of the artist to want people to question, I did. Personally I found my eyes opened to some harmful beliefs I didn’t know I’d been carrying around, and am grateful to have witnessed such a powerful performance.