Dismembering the Member: rethinking sexual difference in Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s exhibition ‘It’s not size that matters, it is shape’


  • Lara Stevens University of Melbourne


Cardoso, Australian art, harvestmen, sexual difference


When the genome mapping of human sex chromosomes was completed in 2005, mainstream media reports on the findings claimed that the science provided evidence that women were a ‘different species’ to men. Many responses to the findings interpreted the research in ways that reinforced traditional patriarchal characterisations of ‘irreconcilable’ sexual differences and discounted the possibility of heterogeneity within and between species. This article focuses on the work of Colombian born, Sydney based artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso and her sculptures of the penises of Tasmanian harvestmen modelled on a variety of closely related species. The works were displayed in the exhibition ‘It’s not size that matters, it is shape’ at Arc One Gallery in Melbourne, Australia in 2011. Offering an ecofeminist reading of the sculptures, I consider the intersections between art, science and technology to argue that these works challenge gendered ontological, morphological and ethological perceptions of our own and other species. I also consider how these artworks provoke spectators to contemplate what it means to be a ‘member’ of a particular species within the increasingly complex infoldings of what has been described as our ‘multispecies’ existence – our interdependence with other organisms and non-living matter.