Within this space there is no avoidance. There is a confrontation, pure and distilled. The feminine is synthesised through worrying thoughts, far reaching oppressions and gynocentric victories. This subject is mobile and furtive – there is a protagonist, but she is only sensed through a layered mythology crystalised in a myriad of forms. Bullo provokes us to enter her burgeoning manifesto, and to engage with her past and her future. It is rare to coexist with a system of objects and ideas working so fluidly together, communicating on multiple levels, verging on the psilocin.
We navigate between cast breathing vessels, twisting tubing, sacrificial entities, the protective gaze of Medusa heads, frozen hand gestures, reconfigured Belarmine jugs and other feminist symbols championing women fighters who crouch ready for battle, poised deep in our collective psyche. Despite the dystopia conjured through the exhibition’s title, it is a cure that Bullo offers, a rhizomatic potential materialised through the aggregation of forms that appear both familiar and foreign, sometimes spectral while often openly autobiographic. Depending on how we relate with these hidden anecdotes, we might discover that the exhibition offers a positive forcefield, an apotropaic witches’ brew that pulls us close to abuse and trauma in order to return us to the comforting all-ness of the everyday.
Bullo’s radicalism is persistent. It is asserted through a host of shape-shifting forms that come into being through deep experimentation shaped by strong instincts. If intricate porcelain and casting constitute a sort of ground, an expansive catalogue of other materials unsettles the sculptural trajectory of ‘Bleach Those Tongues’, and beckons towards a more unstable media assemblage. Each element claims individuality but simultaneously betrays a desire to join the growing procession that has gathered momentum through the wider installed environment.
There is a physical wanting stirring through these objects, but as we are lulled by the tactile pull of the material, we are distracted by whispers of alternate stories. Masked female luchadores displace a religious bigot on a series of suspended vessels, claiming a revisionist perspective in which anything is possible. Bullo wordlessly narrates a movement through these histories, frequently converging on questions of ritual and sacrifice. Is it the artist herself who is the rabbit, the liminal daughter who takes centre stage within the exhibition? Or are we all these daughter-offsets, spilling forth from rigid fur to be reconfigured through aloe vera castings traced back to Bullo’s grandmother’s garden in Rome via Circeo?
These elements are companion pieces, a growing index of the lifetime research and experience of the artist. They breathe together, warding off evil and taking a stance for women in societies both ancient and emergent. Bullo presents this exhibition as a method through which to persevere through this confrontation, by moving forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards. The ebb and flow of the movement is visceral and strong but never too heady, particularly as the vector is propelled by a seemingly impossible productivity. She will never stop making.
It is when we sense this urgency to create that we come closest to Bullo’s concerns of the threats and abuses that women suffer. The difficult terrain challenges psychologies of what constitutes the feminine. In order to progress, we pass through sacrificial temples, femicide locations and personal sacred spaces. There are borders that are traversed, again, forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards. This pulse resurrects hope. Bullo pushes us through, breathing force and life into every crevice of the world around us.
Jennie Guy is based in Dublin, where her practice has evolved through a combination of curatorial, artistic and research-based projects.
Cecilia Bullo’s ‘Bleach Those Tongues: Dystopian Assemblages’ ran at Hillsboro Fine Art, Dublin, from 8 July to 7 August.