Catherine Forster

["cactus, flower, fuck-off, love, roses" installation rendering]

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"cactus, flower, fuck-off, love, roses", 2014

multi-channel video installation, Dimensions Variable, Duration Variable

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The project consists of 3 videos, "Flower Girl" (new version), "Flower Women", "Me Not", and a series of drawings. The piece includes the participation of 20 (and counting) women, and is inclusive (anyone identifying as female is invited to participate). “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. I watch both of my daughters evolve, exploring what it means to be female. The youngest climbs trees one moment 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.

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. The nuances 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 (Dahlia) in bed. In “Flower Women”, each participant chooses a flower they respond to, and communicate its essence, using only their bodies to emote. In “Flower Girl” (re-shot and edited from an early work) the child toys with a bouquet of flowers representing her identity, an older woman methodically constructs a silk flower, and young women who embody the flowers of the bouquet, seduce the girl into womanhood. “Me Not” documents a woman attempting to remove the needles of a cactus, alluding to the child ritual of plucking petals while reciting “he loves me, he loves me not”, but “Me Not” is far from playful. The video references gender non-conformity, violence against women (cis and trans), and resistance to cultural constructs of womanhood.

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