Rouge Dressage

Having worked in a lab as an artist and as a woman, a strong connection is unavoidably apparent between the media and methodologies of laboratory practices, the domestic and the artistic. 

Between its pretty pink and ornamentally named Dulbecco's Modified Eagle's Medium (a serum concoction made from blood used to feed cells in the lab), the labs pristine sterile stainless and white ceramic gloss surfaces where only derived media (pink serum vs whole blood) can or should be spilled, the corresponding medical green, blood- red denying fabrics, the layered gendered language of lab practices (cells as mothers and daughters) and its summary sterilisation through removal of the social stories of its workhorses, ‘the lab’ is in need of reconnecting and dirtying commentary. 

Women’s bodies are particularly subjugated by and constructed through biological knowledge that is determined through ‘data’ from lab practices.  At the core of both lab and gender is blood; blood as menstrual ‘waste’, as gendered marker, as fertility (fertile = ‘proper woman’) indicator, blood as life force of cell culturing – but its Red is avoided (or unmasked or exposed) in the lab.  Its absence is a symbol of the sterilisation of the social in the construction of women’s bodies in Biology. 

Rouge Dressage aims to address the crossovers and the persistence of social meaning that works its way into the petri dish while being actively denied the role of a more constructive and critical voice in such practices.  The use of whole real blood is replaced with gendered analogues such as spills and smears of Maybelline’s Rouge Profond nailpolish or Kiss and Tells’ Date Night lipstick revealing The Red while veiling whether the media is blood or other.


To think socially in the lab is impractical, Rouge Dressage takes over the task.  Science and biotechnology informs so much of how we see ourselves as women but denies active rewriting from within it.  Paralleled with this,    is the seemingly social construction of gendered roles for women as they relate to blood, blood waste and the 'rouge dressage' of the perception of femininity which is inextricably reinforced/confirmed/informed by gender knowledge constructed in the lab.


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Updated 2018 by Cynthia Verspaget