Catherine Forster

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New Projects

"cactus, flowers, fuck-off, love, roses"

multi-channel video installation, and live performance, site specific project

cactus,flower,f%#k-off,love,roses stillFlower Girl

cactus,flower,f%#k-off,love,roses stillMe Not

The project consists of 5 videos ("Flower Girl 3-channel, "Flower Women", and "Me Not")

“Cactus, flowers, fuck-off, love, roses”, explores female identity and the transition from childhood to womanhood. The title of the project comes from “tags” listed on the website Goodreads, for the quote

“Roses may say “I love you,” but the cactus says “Fuck-off”, by J. Kintz.

The project was activated by a convergence of multiple events: my daughter’s 13th birthday, and the coming out of my transgender adult daughter. Both enter puberty, one for the second time, during a period of confusing norms and expectations for women. Hostility towards women seems to be on the rise, here at home with the War Against Women and abroad with intensifying ultra-traditional movements. I watch both of my daughters evolve, exploring what it means to be female. The youngest climbs trees one moments and poses seductively the next, throwing her hip to one side, a hand placed just so. The other worries about the tone of her voice, how to walk, how to dress. What makes a woman? In Simone De Beauvoir’s writings for The Second Sex, she penned "One is not born a woman: one becomes a woman". De Beauvoir notes the difference between being female and being a woman – the latter is learned.

There is a pretty hefty market in literature extorting theories on the differences between men and women, from the blockbuster Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, to brain studies suggesting we are biologically wired differently. Recent neurological studies have debunked most of this. Turns out our brains are pretty similar, but begin to develop differently the moment we are handed to loving arms, wrapped in either a pink or blue blanket. Boys and girls are treated differently, choreographed to be men or women from the moment we are born. How will my transgender daughter ever make up for the socialization she has missed? The subtle innuendoes that condition speech patterns, facial reactions, hand movements, may determine her ability to “pass”, even more than the hormones she is taking to transform her appearance. How can she possibly catch-up, or should she? I worry about my 13 year old, what will she leave behind, or embrace, as she forgoes her childhood and becomes a young woman? What societal pressures will she succumb to? Can she hold on to her identity, cultivate her aspirations, or is she predestined to be a construct of her environs? These are the questions I pondered throughout the project - just what is the essence of femaleness, beyond the biological?

as an extention of "Flower Girl", a key component of the work resides with the symbolic connection between flowers and women. Flowers have been a symbol for femininity and womanhood since ancient times, but the Victorians created an elaborate code and system for non-verbal communication. The nuances of the language are mostly forgotten, but the implications for women still linger – the perfect woman must still be pure (Lotus) of body, innocent (Daisy) in spirit, and a wildcat (Poppy) in bed. The piece includes 18 (and counting) women who respond physically to the symbolic meaning of a flower of their choosing. I chose the tulip, drawn by the strength of the tulip and the Western legend that no human power could open it. "As a young girl I was often complemented for being “strong” yet at the same time, I was repeatedly told I would not find a husband. So it was good to be strong, but I must not show it." It is these contradictions I find most compelling, and an insight to female identity.

Cactus,flower,f%#k-off,love,roses 3-channel still

Cactus,flower,f%#k-off,love,roses 3-channel still

Cactus,flower,f%#k-off,love,roses 3-channel still