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Catherine Elwes
At the Slade, Elwes continued to create a series of powerful works on the themes from female experience. In Menstruation I (1979) the artist dressed in white and sat atop a circular sheet upon which she bled, drew and wrote.

In Menstruation II (also 1979) Elwes used the same principle, this time enclosing herself in a small makeshift room, with a glass partition between the artist and the audience of daily passersby at the school. Onlookers would write questions on pieces of paper, which Elwes transcribed, along with her answers, onto the glass partition. The piece ended when the glass was entirely covered in writing.

Elwes' point in this work was that menstruation was not an extreme condition, but a banal event in the lives of every woman. The context of these performances was a widespread radical feminist attempt to retrieve menstruation as a source of creative energy lost to the patriarchal order and contemporary taboos. Many women artists (for example, Carolee Schneemann, Judy Clark and Judith Higginbottom) were trying to reclaim menstruation from its negative image. These early performances can be seen as predecessors to Elwes' later work in that the body - hers and others - would become primary visual material.

Still from Menstruation 2 performance by Catherine Elwes, 1979
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