Thursday, December 5, 2013

Knitting from the womb: An artist confronts her menstrual cycle

An artist, hopes to draw people's private perceptions on menstruation into the open in an exhibition titled, Casting Off My Womb by knitting with wool that has been inserted in her womb. PHOTO/FILE

An artist, hopes to draw people's private perceptions on menstruation into the open in an exhibition titled, Casting Off My Womb by knitting with wool that has been inserted in her womb. PHOTO/FILE 

By KEI
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Societies across the globe prefer that women stay out of sight especially during that time of the month. Proposals too have been floated to give working women time off to attend to their cycles.

Advertisers have sold billions of products on the premise of saving women the embarrassment of the accidental leak that may escape the confine of whichever sanitary contraption they will be using at the time.

This cloud of secrecy and shame around this very feminine time of the month is now challenged using one medium that has long been associated with women- knitting.

The artist, Casey Jenkins hopes to draw people's private perceptions on menstruation into the open in an exhibition titled, Casting Off My Womb.

Casey, performs over a 28 day period at the Darwin Visual Arts Association (DVAA) from October to November, 2013.

KNITTING FROM THE WOMB

In the exhibition, Casey sits on a wooden chair in a public gallery space and knitting from wool inserted in her my her vaginal cavity, one skein of wool each day, to mark a full menstrual cycle.

As the item being knit gets longer, it is hung  from the ceiling on wire hangers. She does not stop even when she has her periods.

 "The performance wouldn't be the performance if I were going to cut out my menstrual cycle from it, “ she says.

With each day of knitting passing, a manual calendar is flicked over to mark the number of days remaining until the piece will be ‘cast off’.

She has been widely criticised for her choice of medium as well as the public display of the art.

“In this piece I’m trying to draw the warped and misogynistic views about the vulva and menstruation into the open. I hope the dissonance between those views and the common warm or dismissive responses to knitting (also based on patriarchy-serving fallacies), will begin to break down both responses and the damaging ideas behind them, showing them to be absurd."

While she acknowledges that the work had been long and tedious mostly done in silence, she says she took the time to be intimate and to connect with her body and make her decisions on how to use it.

BODY RHYTHM

“The work was a long and gentle process for me, during it I marked the rhythms of my body and made an assessment of what I intend to do with my body and my life, away from the hyperbole of public expectations and judgements.”

She says that knitting from her womb is not painful. It could however be arousing and sometimes uncomfortable especially during her menses.

“When I'm menstruating it makes knitting a hell of a lot harder because the wool  is wet so you have to kind of yank at it.”

Asked about her choice of depository for knitting she replies. “...people push babies out of there and therefore this is a robust area.”