Tina Stefanou’s Hym(e)nals, 2022, reflects on solidarity, kinship and coming-of-age through interspecies communication. As the veiled figures move around the panoramic screen and in and out of darkness, they whisper, laugh and hum in unison, a mode of vocality suggesting forms of acoustic connection. In Hym(e)nals, Stefanou is not interested in the thoroughbreds’ heroism or the show pony’s nobility. The young women and their elderly equine companions are neither divine nor triumphant; rather, Stefanou celebrates the workhorse, while de-stereotyping the portrayal of women in equestrian settings. Stefanou says about her interest in these cultural depictions:
'The clichés of the female, horse and pony club are strong. For me, just adjacent to the cliché is the sacred. The cliché that can blind you from realising what’s happening – and what’s taking place – in Hym(e)nals is a very deep interspecies communication between teenage hormonal systems and old equine bodies.'
Hym(e)nals celebrates this intense pre-sexual moment in the riders’ lives as something sacred while acknowledging the hymen-like structures shared by female horses and other mammals. The joining of the ecclesiastical ‘hymn’ and the anatomic ‘hymen’ draws our attention to what art historian Tara Heffernan describes as Stefanou’s fascination with representing
the spaces between private and public, the internal and the external, the everyday and the divine, and the permeability and occasional collapse between the two.