Melissa Wauchope, in art Damson

53rd Venice Biennale

Pagan religion as a human need expressed through art

di Claudio Simeoni

53rd Venice Biennale: Pagan religion as a human need expressed through art.

Pagan religion.


Italian version: Melissa Wauchope, in art Damson the 53rd Venice Biennale


Damson is an artist exposing in Venice at palazzo Zenobio, Dorsoduro 2596, with an exhibition curated by Fabio Anselmi, open from the 07th June to 07th July 2009. The title of the exhibition is "Life death love loss".

Damson exhibits her white bride dresses stained with red to mean menstruation or verginity loss.

To describe her artworks, Damson, who is from Australia but resides in Venice, writes on her website:

"The motivation behind these works is to translate into three-dimensional form stereotypical phrases or concepts.

The white dress is a recurring symbol. Like a canvas which fulfills a duel function, it speaks of sexuality and feminility in the intimate side of daily life, at the same time asking us to reflect upon the social implication of such."

But we, who have grown up in a catholic ambient, know the source of this terror very well.

For menstruations:

"And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean. Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation. And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean." Levitic 15, 25-28

For verginity instead we must look at how this idea has been translated from Ancient Religions to Christianity with a deep change of sense and meaning.

The break of the hymen as a mark of possession of woman by the man. The symbol of the white dress has been turned, in western tradition, into the christian madonna performing the magnificat of submission and of giving herself up as a person with an intelligence, wishes and ability to organize her own future.

The white dress is a need in order to control the feminine body

The white bride dress and the control over feminine sexuality express the need to control the woman.

The woman is considered only for her sex as far as her intelligence as a person's is denied. So the woman who gets married in a white dress becomes the symbol of the renunciation to her intelligence and personality and of the self dedication as a sexual organ that must be controlled and certified by the white dress.

Today we have already lost the real meaning of the white dress, but the need to mark the human cattle in order to reduce it in categories into which it can be controlled has been preserved.

When a society marks the woman in order to reduce her in a category to be controlled, this society is raping itself and its future.

This is what Damson, art name of Melissa Wauchope, says:

"Thematically, her works evolve around the body, examining in particular our metabolic, reproductive and organic processes, our instinctive impulses and the frailty of the human condition."

The liberation from the control of body is typical of Pagan religious ideology: liberation from every master, especially from he who, offending the Republic's Costitution, says: "I want you to know that Christ is the master of every man, the man is the master of the woman and God is master of Christ." Like Paul of Tarsus.

To set the bodies free from both emotional and physical restraints is typical of the impulse of Necessity, "Ananke", inside every Being of Nature.

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It's through the process of removal of all the moral encrustations imposed by christianity that the Human Being can meet the Gods and construct, in the world in which they live, the emotional relations which can lead them to the Olympus of the infinite.

Marghera, 11th June 2009


Italian version: Melissa Wauchope, in art Damson the 53rd Venice Biennale


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