The sacred is the first layer of signification—the holy ideal of female who bit into the forbidden fruit and then saw a world not for her to know. This is the cursed foundation upon which the two-pronged identity of the objectified woman has been reproduced and recreated in the ensuing representations—through art, media, commercial advertisement, down to academic discourses—of the female through the ages. There is no respite, no in between. The times might have changed the mode of punishment—from stoning to social discrimination but the weight of the moral judgment has been constant: either she complies to tradition, or otherwise castigated.
Nikki Luna works on the image of the original woman propagated by the church, casting with the Virgin—enigmatic and perched on a pedestal—centuries of feudal patriarchal tradition instilled by the Spanish colonizers through a religion that until now continues to be a key player in Philippine politics and culture. The same Church has successfully rallied against the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines, which could have made birth contraceptives accessible to working class women, among others. She recreates the sacred female form with marble dust and resin mixed with maternal blood, harnessing the power of gender performativity through making visible the abject erased in all the images pertaining to the enduring myth of the Virgin mother—blood in birthing.
Within the sacred body through which idealisms are foisted upon women throbs the blood of the mother, collected from a local hospital otherwise known as the busiest maternal hospital in the world, delivering 60-100 babies in a period of 24-hours. In a country with more than 98 million population, wherein 66 million live below the poverty line, this hospital leads in the staggering national population growth rate of 2 percent, the highest in Asia. Dire material conditions that burden the working class women inform Luna’s form of the ideal woman, materializing as blood on the otherwise pure puritanical façade of the woman peddled by superstructures. By adding the abject into the equation, Luna effectively redefines stain not as stigma but a necessary substantiation of a silent struggle.