In the waiting room Needling Clitorides Histories is a live art work for 2 or more people at a time.
First presented at Performance Studies International 19, Ternate Park Rose Garden, Stanford (USA) 27 – 30th June 2013 as part of a triptych with the site responsive Evolution: A Walk [With Herbivores] and Fieldwork:Empathic Limb Clinic.
Visitors in a waiting area add to two embroidery panels. One outline is the flower, Clitoria Ternatea, and one is the human Clitoridis.
Participants are invited to needle the fabric of society with the threads of two stories and consider parallel histories, debated nomenclature and extraordinary censorship for these two organs, at the hands of western science from 18th-20th Century. They are offered the brightly coloured blue tea of the Clitoria Ternatea flower (used in some cultures as an aphrodisiac). From time to time Jones stops by the waiting area to reveal further points and protagonists in the story or answer questions that may have been raised in the participants conversation. Together the embroiderers create a botanic dialogue that joins the past with the present.
The action raises revelatory, political and personal conversations that question the authority of science, and consider the extent of censorship on social thinking and awareness of anatomic knowledge, genital mutilation practices and how little research has been done around the clitoris. From self-conscious titillation to unexpected intimacy with a stranger audiences are left with the feeling of political responsibility. The story of Clitoridis, the full image and details of which was only restored to anatomic textbooks in the 1995, has had a profound and emotional effect on some female participants.
Participants grew visibly attached to the works they contributed to, and asked to continue their embroidery at other times returning on subsequent days to add further stitches.
Conceived and presented by Cat Jones.
Research for this project has been supported through Australia Council for the Arts through a Creative Australia Fellowship 2012, and residencies at fo.am, Belgium and Bundanon Trust NSW. Special thanks to the generosity of The Wellcome Trust Library for access to rare materials, the artists involved in Transcontinental Garden Exchange for feedback, prototype testing and stitching.