CW: fake blood.
First blood is a performance piece and furniture object which explores the idea that there is a process of identity erasure (and imposition) that occurs when a person experiences their first period.
(Above is a journal entry that highlights the inspiration for the chair)
THE CHILD BEFORE THE STAIN
The chair (pre-stain) is a minimalist, bleached ash, square-stock chair - ghostly and pure. The grain of the wood, once wild and vibrant is subdued but still visible after bleaching. The light grain pattern is supposed to symbolize the complex personality of the individual that is about to go through a life-changing experience. Subtle enough that after the stain emerges, the grain seems to fade into the background because of the extreme contrast created by the red on white - drawing the eyes in.
CHILD UNSEXED TO WOMAN
The subtle shaping on the square stock chair gives the impression that the chair is "tiptoeing" and "delicate" techniques that have been traditionally used by furniture designers and craftsmen to denote a "feminine" quality. The feminine aspects in contrast with the initial reading of the minimalist "masculine" square chair allows the chair form to sit in the ambiguous middle ground, speaking to the fact that before someone experiences their period they are in many ways sexless to society. Once the chair is stained there is no question of the sex or gender of the chair, no notice of the subtleties in the wood, it is so clearly "a chair about menstruation" and stays one forever.
The chair was designed to stain itself after the first seating. It's important for the viewer to understand that the "blood" came from within the chair and not from the seater.
We watch as the blood appears to emerge like magic and we are helpless to stop the process. The chair remains forever stained, fixed in the moment it changed forever - just as we remain "women" in the eyes of society. It is an irreversible change.
Photography by John Shen
The shaping of the chair itself contains contradicting elements of traditionally “masculine” and “feminine” design. At first glance the chair appears fully stripped of ornamentation, cubic and minimalist, but upon further inspection one notices the slight angling of the back, a seven degree angle, which provides an unexpected amount of comfort to the sitter.
One also notices angling in the legs which mirrors the same seven degree angle, adopting a technique from French Rococo furniture which tapers the legs to make the furniture appear light and dainty. The chair seems suspended, light, and ungrounded.
CUT + SHAPE
To prepare the chair for the stain I had to bleach it—quieting the loud grain of the Ash so as not to distract from the main event . There is nothing pleasant about the process of bleaching: it is a physically draining, chemical-ridden, deadening process.
As the daughter of Latinx parents, I felt that my premenarchal years were, in a sense, a period of grain erasure. Though, like the wood, not erased to the point of disappearance, but rather just enough so that the moment, “I became a woman,” I would be ready to receive the role.
The moment the chair is sat on for the first time, the self-staining process is activated.
The seat itself is a spring box containing a saturated red sponge. In order to achieve a perfect, gradual, "bleed" from the center of the chair I carved a dome into the top piece of the seat. Once the paper thin tip of the dome interacts with the sponge, wood does what wood does best and sucks up the liquid ink, dispersing it from the center of the seat outwards.
Without the carved dome, the ink would travel up the "straws" of the wood at an angle and the stain would appear in an unplanned location.
If you want to know more about the development and theory behind First Blood please read through this paper.