“Social criticism requires greater sensitivity than painting flowers”

Yolanda Domínguez encouraged women to register their bodies to protest abortion reform

Artist and activist Yolanda Domínguez.
Artist and activist Yolanda Domínguez.LUIS SEVILLANO

Dozens of images of her latest artworks are circulating on the internet. They are photographs and videos of women collectively requesting to be allowed to register as the rightful owners of their bodies at the Business Register.

The symbolic action, meant as a protest against the government's proposed abortion reform - which eliminates abortion on demand and forbids it even in the case of serious fetal abnormalities - was the brainchild of artist Yolanda Domínguez. The 36-year-old specializes in organizing collective actions and creating unsettling situations aimed at shocking viewers and getting them involved in the action.

"The nature of these activities is social protest," she says. "Art is a perfect space for protesting. And for speaking about the unspeakable."

Domínguez often introduces genre-based themes into her work, which have included a critique of the stereotypes that continue to hold women back. One of the aims of this latest action was to represent women taking back their own bodies.

"Our body has not belonged to us for a very long time now," she says. "But this is the last straw. The abortion bill restricts women's ability to decide over their own bodies and motherhood."

Domínguez describes her art as a form of social criticism, as she settles comfortably on the sofa in a café near her home in the Madrid neighborhood of Chueca. She studied fine arts, as well as business administration for a short while, but that was clearly not her place. Nor did she feel at ease with her first creations, which were paintings.

"it is not that they sold badly. No, people bought them for their living rooms. Sometimes they even asked me if I could change the colors... That wasn't creating - that was decorating! It was no use to me for communication purposes," she explains.

"We artists are sensitive beings, and someone who does social criticism is more sensitive than someone who paints flowers. I'm sorry for Murakami."

She sought artistic media where she felt comfortable, and began working with action art. She also circulated her work online. "I want to reach everyone," she says. "My photography is for others to make, or to circulate on the networks. I love the collective nature of art; it used to be a social event, but capitalism has cloistered it. You walk into a gallery and feel you have to cross yourself. I like to create experiences because we already have a lot of objects."

Some of those actions or "livings," which seek an original form of critique through audience participation, have been highly successful. They included 2011's Poses, in which she got women to adopt strange postures on the street, as a parody of the unnatural poses made by professional models.

Videos of those scenes, including a paralyzed woman with a handbag on her head, received over 800,000 hits on YouTube.

"The best part is, I'm still getting homemade versions of Poses from all kinds of people!" she laughs.

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