Undammed/Desbloqueada is a subtle piece of art which currently hangs in a gallery corner. A crucial element within the piece, though easily overlooked, is a copper IUD belonging to the artist. The work is the result of an introspection to find the dams in Carolina Caycedo’s personal life and to reveal infrastructure on a human scale. Removing the IUD, for Caycedo, is an act of decolonization that eliminates the damming within her body and restores the natural rhythms of it.  

The work teases out a parallel between water and women, highlighting a gender dichotomy. Both are subjugated to the intrusion of artificial objects; dams and IUDs are infrastructures built to seek control over the bodies, of water and of women. Operating within the context of Western, capitalist systems, the subjugation, oppression, and exploitation of the bodies of water and women reveal the governing patriarchy.

Undammed/Desbloqueada feels especially timely in the midst of the current pandemic, as the needs and rights of women have been unsurprisingly disregarded. We’ve heard news ranging from the initial exclusion of sanitary products from essential medical supplies for the frontline in China, to the denial of abortion services as essential medical procedures in some parts of the United States. Undammed/Desbloqueada perfectly reiterates the feminist slogan “The personal is political.” It is a reminder that under patriarchy, we, the women, constantly need to fight for control over our own bodies. 

Nemo Xu, a Visitor Assistant at the ICA, is a Chinese international student and a recent graduate in Art History and Sociology. She is passionate about exploring the social impact of art and culture. During this time, her diasporic situation has prompted her to look into postcolonial and Orientalist discourse in the handling of COVID-19.

Friday Art Notes are personal reflections on works of art shown or in the permanent collection of the ICA, written by ICA staff, volunteers, and supporters. Read more