As per feminist philosopher and theologian Mary Daly, GYNAESTHESIA is a woman’s unique multidimensional capability of sensing her environment, a female-specific awareness of patterns and constellations, “a complex way of perceiving the interrelatedness of seemingly disparate phenomena, a positive paranoia – a strengthening and realistic disease in polluted and destructive environment.”
The majority of the ongoing GYNAESTHESIA project was shot in Koblarska cave near Kočevje, Slovenia. The cave is one of the largest uncovered prehistorical cave cemeteries and fertility ritual spaces in Slovenia. Mircea Eliade claimed that “caves and the underground were equal to Mother Earth’s womb – in prehistoric times, death was seen as a second birth, the beginning of a new spiritual existence.”
This location was chosen with the intention to rekindle the connection with the fairly unknown mythical landscape of the area, as a way to explore the lost tie with the land. Andrej Pleterski defines the mythical landscape as the relationship between humans and nature and as a geographical aspect of a cultural genome: “The cultural genome determines our cultural expression and is a set of primordial findings about the functioning of the universe and the rules derived from these findings, which govern the lives of individuals and communities.” These beliefs, formed into a verbal narrative, become a mythical story, the textual part of the cultural genome, while the geographical dimension transfers into a mythical landscape. The mythical story thus becomes a mental model, which materialises as spatial ideograms. These spatial ideograms became part of the landscape, formed naturally or artificially, functioning as magical means to master the forces of nature, and consequently ensuring life and wellbeing. In addition to material ideograms, such as landscape, the mythical landscape also includes intangible components, which can be found in folk narratives and performances, names of places, sometimes in the names of saints and church patrons, which overlaid the earlier mythical landscape.
Analysis of myths reveals the foundation of the society and its hierarchical structure, as explained by Barthes and Daly: “Myths are said to be stories that express intuitive insights and relate the activities of gods. The mythical figures are symbols. These, it is said, open up depth of reality otherwise closed to us.” The patriarchal foundation led to positioning women as chaos agents, according to Amanda Vajskop. Women as chaos agents become “symbolic embodiment of women’s “bad” qualities – wilfulness, independence, curiosity, and disobedience that disrupts (creates chaos in) the supposed order of God’s creation.” As per Martha Weigle, it is the “fear of female creative power” that causes men to position women as chaos agents in myths.
Through this visual exploration of a moving female form, the embodied female power, and its relation to nature and sacred, I am using photography as a technique of freedom, liberating the ancient goddess archetype from imposed images of what is worthy, of what is divine. Arising out of particularly female perspective and with the intention to create feminist imagery and symbolism, this ongoing body of work rejects the already existent imagery of women, founded on male gaze, Christianity, and Capitalism. Filling the void and lack of representation, intricately connected to prevailing societal narratives, photography will turn to its ability of reimagination, thus creating “an ellipse of language and a condensation of an ‘ineffable’ society,” in words of Roland Barthes.
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