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Marisa Carnesky on Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman

Photography: Sarah Ainslie

Run Riot invited iconic performance artist Marisa Carnesky to write about her work, Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman ahead of its summer run at the Underbelly Festival 2017, Southbank Centre. In stream of consciousness style, here are Carnesky's thoughts...

So here I sit one week before we take our show Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman, an all new psychedelic menstrual spectacle cum TED type talk out for a second spin at the Underbelly Festival post our premiere last Xmas at the Soho Theatre which was a blast….. I'm nervous and filled with the usual anxieties…...do I have enough time to get this show up and running again? Can I remember it? Can everyone else remember it? (getting progressively more nervous as I write this) Can I improve it? Have we done enough to let people know we are there?….and a whole list of new anxieties…..do we belong there? are we too arty/feminist/talky or can it work in the Speigaltent on the Southbank…even with all the comedy, magic, sword swallowing, and hairhanging…. will people engage….will we entertain them with our reinvention of menstrual rituals, our romp through menstrual mythology, our foray in menstrual anthropology, our tongue in cheek witicisms, our re-appropriation of 1970s horror styling…..will they get what we’re trying to do?…..are we funny as well as serious, will we frighten people off or will they go with it…. can we be entertaining, arty and political?….. and then another list of old style classic anxieties…..will the company go bust if we don’t sell enough tickets? what happened to arts funding? do you have to be born into money to run a theatre company these days? can we afford to do this, is it ridiculous to have a touring show with 6 people (and a baby), should I stop all this ridiculous showwomanship, menstrual activism, grand illusions and flamboyant propositions….is it time to hang up my avant garde shoes, cover up my tattoos and try to get a real job with a pension and holiday pay…..(Ha!)….in the 1990s I was part of a group called Feminists Against Censorship (FAC) and we put on a show in the Camden Underworld called The Smut Fest, inspired by Jennifer Blowdryer's sex worker cabarets in New York, and we invited her over to stage something similar in London with us…... we presented cutting edge artists doing sexually transgressive performances and talking frankly about themes of sex, sex work and sexuality……. it felt vital, important like these artists needed a stage to voice their work and that audience needed to see that work……that was the 1990s and we felt the need to stand up to censorship then…….if we could have seen into the future, seen into 2017, seen the rise of mainstream right wing politics, seen the re-emergence of hatred and fear of difference, seen the rise in terror attacks, seen the armed police appearing on the streets, we would have been very shocked…. and then perhaps very worried, and then perhaps very confused and then, and then, and then - perhaps we would have had the anxiety…..is it dangerous to do this show in such a time  …..can we do this show…can we do this show…..can we be women/experimental cabaret artists/activists…..can we be out there, proud, can we not be scared, can we do this, can we say what we feel driven to say, to create in a time of increased fear mongering and creeping censorship….. can we do this? will we do this?….and this is not the 1990s…..this is now now now……..and this is real real real and hell yes yes yes !!!!!!!!!!! we can do it and we’ll do it more and more and more and we’ll bathe in our free speech and we’ll keep on creating and exploring and pushing and trying to transcend….. along with some friends from the FAC days, some friends from RAG (the Radical Anthropology Group) and the all new group we formed last year….the Menstronauts…….because we are artists and activists, not just clicktivists and this is our job and yes it's very entertaining and you’ll have a great time and we are worth the ticket money……oh do come, do!!!!! we’ll stand outside on a warm June evening on the South Bank and we’ll talk long into the night about culture and sexuality and desire and art and activism and the power to change things…..it will wonderful and it will be London and yes we’ll be there and we hope you’ll join us….most definitely……

Don't miss Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman at Underbelly Festival on 20-25 June at 19.45 (and 19:30)! Check out the Run Riot listing for more details.