MA2 term one - Alice Oliver

In an ongoing lyrical exploration into human and non-human nature, I want to expose the intricacies of the intimate cyclical connections between women, celestial bodies, and the land. By making the unseen seen, I want to examine and experiment within the relationship between the ancient landscape that surrounds me and the materiality of photography, exposing these natural cycles and examining the fate of not preserving the base of everything, the soil from which we come.

The cycles of the moon determine our monthly and yearly calendars, with an ancient light that has ruled our lives since the beginning of time. The changes that come with each passing moon have been seen to indicate the times for planting, harvesting, hunting, and gathering, reflecting the close connection between cycles of the moon and plants and non-human life.

 

The moon has also always been seen as a female energy, connected with fertility and similarities have been found between the menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle. The inner rhythms of the menstruating body have been considered to synchronise with those inner rhythms of the moon. Menstruating bodies mirror the moon's waxing and waning stages of approximately fourteen days, producing a twenty-eight-day cycle equal to the average menstrual cycle. To go through a cycle of new growth is consistent with these ancient cyclical ideas of ovulation, flowering, harvest, degeneration, and replenishment. This period of change or transformation in the menstruating body is in tune with lunar energies, a celestial relationship that dates back to the beginning of evolution when beings were exposed to moon cycles for thousands of years before being exposed to artificial light. In an environment with solely natural light - solar and lunar, menstruating bodies were found to do so on the new moon and ovulated on the full moon, linking with fertility and harvest, all timed to the natural rhythms.

Healing has always been regarded as the natural responsibility of women. With techniques learned and passed down through history, observed from one woman and passed on. But because women were excluded from academic institutions, female healers of the past had little opportunity to contribute to the science of medicine. Instead, they served as herbalists, midwives,  nurses, and empirics, the traditional healers. Untutored in medicine, they used botanical-based therapies and traditional home remedies, amongst many other techniques derived from their ancient native intelligence of the land. Their remedies and medications, which were made up of predominately plant matter, brought a lot of superstition, lack of understanding, and suspected charlatanism. This is how the 'Witch' was born.

The Wayside

Lunar photograms

 

Made by placing a series of 8' x 10' sheets of light-sensitive paper directly into the hedgerow/wayside, and exposing them to moonlight.  

Lunar Photogram of Rue

Rue

Lunar Photogram

Used for a wide range of medical uses, to treat the likes of worms, rheumatism, and hysteria, but was most recognised as an abortifacient in classical antiquity.

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Archive illustration

'The anatomy of the external forms of man' Fau, Julien, 1849, found at the Wellcome Collection.

With the natural spermicide, Gypsophila also known as Baby's Breath or Maiden's Breath, placed over the top.

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Act 4, scene 5 of Shakespear's Hamlet, Ophelia gives away a number of flowers with medicinal properties, keeping only rue for herself:

OPHELIA: There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

LAERTES: A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.

OPHELIA: There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays. You may wear your rue with a difference. (170-177)

Lunaria

Lumen Print

exposed to sunlight

Dried seed heads symbolise fertility

Queen Anne's Lace

Lunar Photogram

Seeds are to be taken for seven days after unprotected intercourse

during the fertile period to help prevent fertilised eggs from implanting in the uterus.

Petri dish containing bacteria found in St John's Wort

The dish is then placed directly onto light-sensitive paper and exposed to moonlight

Crit 26th October 2021

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Lumen contact print of the full harvest moon, exposed to sunlight

Lunaria

Lunar Photogram

Dried seed heads symbolise fertility 

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Petri dish containing bacteria found in the plant concoction for

Maiden's Tea. A 1920's drink made from rosemary, thyme, lavender, and

myrtle should be taken during the menses to prevent fertility until the next period.

Acacia

Lunar Photogram

Records show that some of the earliest ancient Egyptian birth control methods included the use of acacia leaves and honey as a natural spermicide. Women would mix honey and acacia and soak lint or cotton in the mixture. They inserted the lint or cotton into their vaginas before having sex, and the combination would kill some sperm before they reached the uterus.

Petri dish containing bacteria found in Rue

Used for a wide range of medical uses,

to treat the likes of worms, rheumatism, and hysteria, but

was most recognised as an abortifacient in classical antiquity

Artemisia

Found by the wayside and in most hedgerows

 

In the twelfth century, Artemisia was used as a menstrual stimulator. Modern medicine has confirmed its use as Artemisia inhibits estrogen production and can prevent ovulation much like pharmaceutical contraceptives today. 

The Wayside

Lunar photograms

 

Made by placing a series of 8' x 10' sheets of light-sensitive paper directly into the hedgerow/wayside, and exposing them to moonlight.  

Pennyroyal

 

Lunar Photogram

 

 Pennyroyal was primarily used as an emmenagogue, to stimulate menstruation, and as an abortifacient

Parsley

Parsley has important medicinal uses in gynecology and obstetrics. In 1855, traditional knowledge from folk medicine was proven scientifically, that treatment with apiol helps alleviate period pains and can bring on late menstrual bleeding.

 

Phytogram  

 

Made by soaking the plants in a solution of water, soda crystals, and vitamin C to bring out the natural light-sensitive chemistry of the plants, then placed on light-sensitive paper and exposed to sunlight.

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Petri dish containing bacteria found in St John's Wort.

The use of this species as an herbal remedy to treat a variety of internal and external ailments dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks. It was commonly made into teas and tinctures for the treatment of anxiety, depression, insomnia, water retention, and gastritis.

The Wayside

Lunar photogram

 

Made by placing a sheet of light-sensitive paper directly into the hedgerow/wayside, and exposing it to moonlight.  

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Archive image

From Jacques Fabien Gautier d'Agoty's book 'Anatomie des parties de la génération de l'homme et de la femme ... jointe a l'angéologie de tout le corps humain, e a ce qui concerne la grossesse et les accouchemens' 1773. Found at the Wellcome Collection. With the natural spermicide, Gypsophila also known as Baby's Breath or Maiden's Breath, placed over the top.

Lumen Print

Made by placing petri dish directly on to light-sensitive paper and exposing to sunlight.

Work so far on the wall

25th November 2021

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