Prison of Love is an interdisciplinary project that raises the possibility of artistically and culturally representing a complex set of aspects around the topic of domestic/gender violence. The title is not accidental; it is taken from an epistolary novel with a tragic end by Diego de San Pedro (Seville, 1492), whose beliefs and point of view could well symbolise, both literally and figuratively, fear of the patriarchal system in the 21st century. With five interconnected sections (a film and video programme, web project, performance piece, conferences and a publication) and conceived as a space distinguished by its diversity of opinions and points of view, Prison of Love runs the risk of being perceived as lacking rigor, confronting as it does a topic that is both broad and brutal. Far from assuming that ‘anything goes’, this project, which was put together over a period of almost two years, is based on the concept that artistic and cultural codes are collective representations and that their form and content are shaped by and for the social order.
As with other novels of love, medieval or not, in Prison of Love, physical love is connected with violence. With more than thirty editions in Spanish and translated into a number of European languages, this medieval bestseller emphasises ‘paternal law’, i.e., the literal meaning of patriarchy. Ignoring the pleas of his family and the court, the king imprisons his daughter Laureola, “ready to enforce the cruelest sentence for her as her actions were cause for dishonor”. Within the context of contemporary feminism, the patriarchal system is not restricted to the father-daughter relationship. The first wave of feminism amplified its description according to Kate Millet (St. Paul, 1934) to ‘male domination’, i.e., to any instance of male control over a woman. In the third wave, feminists broadened Millet’s definition even more and criticised her ‘reductionism’, underscoring the fact that the same type of framework could be applied to any gender relationship, including homosexual relationships.
Two months before the inauguration of Prison of Love at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, congress approved the Spanish law against gender violence. It remains to be seen what the real consequences will be. It also remains to be seen if women who are dealing with violence by men - or by their partners - and need to turn to the legal system to report their aggressors, will be able to do so. This project is dedicated to all of those women.