Workshop with Dr Carnesky: Matriarchy, Menstruation and Meaning

On the 10th October in our Explore Studio, the Performance and Community REG were pleased to host independent scholar and practitioner Maria Carnesky for a practice-as-research performance making workshop. This workshop explored themes of menstruation, cyclicity and ritual action which drew on devising techniques which have evolved through Marisa’s artistic practice.

Building on the themes of the critically acclaimed performance work Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman, her new show, Menstronauts A Go Go! reinvents menstrual rituals for a new era, drawing on the hidden power of a forgotten matriarchal past. Her workshops encourage a structured and supportive environment influenced by autoethnographic and activist practices.

In the workshop, Dr Carnesky outlined her approach to devising and distinguished between two aspects of her method. One aspect concerned how she worked with her performance ensemble called the ‘Menstrants’. Menstrants would work on performances which expressed an individual idea around menstruation and the cycle, something often grounded in personal trauma.

DR CARNESKY’S INCREDIBLE BLEEDING WOMAN UK Tour, 27 October – 24 November 2018

Here is a link to a recording of Maria’s talk and workshop

As well as a methodology which attempts to fashion a performative language to express ideas, the other aspect of Carnesky’s method involves collaborate work with the public. Supported by Mentrants, members of the public are encouraged to create interventions or actions which explore and challenge conceptions of menstruation. These actions take place in civic, urban and public spaces and are characterised by their disruptive, fun and spontaneous character.  Participants engaged in this are called ‘Menstronauts’.

DR CARNESKY’S INCREDIBLE BLEEDING WOMAN UK Tour, 27 October – 24 November 2018

In both approaches, Maria’s method emphasises the use of archetypes and strong visual imagery as a basis for the work or action to grow from. One powerful image is the snake, both as a representation of the taboo, but also of continuation or eternity. During our workshop, groups developed different ideas about actions they might perform. For example, one group began with an image of water flowing and related hidden rivers with menstruation, while another considered the image of eggs, as both a symbol of fertility and as something related to the menstrual cycle.

For more information about Maria’s work, visit:

Dr Craig Jordan-Baker


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