In one of my earlier posts, I had mentioned that the downward-pointing triangle carved from the tree (during my experimentation), also acted as an eye. To explain further, the tree’s ‘eye’ acted as a witness to my subsequent actions of burning the removed bark – symbolizing an offering up of the tree’s life-force or immortality. This could be construed as a rather torturous and cruel procedure – if one was to consider the tree as a living being. However, as I was alone during the performance (referencing the idea of female segregation during initiation and rites of passage), the tree was my only witness.
This reminded me of the symbol of the Eye of Providence or all seeing eye – particularly the eye within an upward-pointing triangle, used by early Christians to not only symbolize the eye of God but to represent the trinity:
Although the symbol of the eye predated Christ, as well as relating to other religions and fraternities including the Masons and Mormons, I felt that the triangular symbol had particular relevance to my own project.
The all seeing eye with regard to Christianity, symbolizes the all seeing eye of God i.e. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good – Proverbs 15:3” (Barber, 2006, p24).
With this in mind, similarly to St Peter’s cross which is the upside down crucifx which has been adopted by anti-Christian movements, the downward pointing triangle used in my performance, could be seen as a direct rebellion against “God”, particularly as the ritualistic symbology of the performance also leans toward Paganism. Therefore, the performance could not only be seen as an act against nature, but also an act against “God” – taking vengeance against these ‘higher powers’, for all that women have suffered throughout history and perhaps – if one were to believe – tracing this back to the original sin and punishment of Eve:
Genesis – Unto the woman God said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee’ (Berger, chapter 1, 1972)
In John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, the woman’s position is further highlighted by the “striking fact that the woman is blamed and punished by being made subservient to the man” (Berger, chapter 1, 1972).
On reading Ways of Seeing, one can see through Berger’s commentary on art, how women have been portrayed throughout history – being objects of pleasure to the spectator, being perceived as inferior to men, taking the blame for being spectated i.e. acknowledging one’s own beauty – ideas of vanity – leaving the spectator blameless and the idea of women surveying themselves and judging themselves by surveying others.
These writings are extremely relevant to my project, as they link Eve’s sin and punishment, right through to how women are perceived today and the expectations placed upon them to behave and present themselves in a certain way.
Although this should not be the case – especially considering the rise of feminism in the 1970s and equal rights to women and men, unfortunately, the media continues to put pressure on women to attain and maintain youthful looks and beauty.
Barber, A. H. (2006) Celestial Symbols. USA: Horizon Publishers
Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.