Casting off my womb

17 December 2013

Did you see that performance project by Casey Jenkins called, Casting off my womb?

It is interesting and challenging – Casey Jenkins inserts a ball of wool into her vagina, sits in a gallery and knits a scarf from it, sitting and working for six hours a day for 28 days.

Emma Rees, author of The Vagina: a Literary and Cultural History (Yes, I have just requested it from my library) wrote a good piece about the performance, Casting off shame through vaginal knitting.  She notes:

“If commentators squirm when the wool turns red, then so much the better – that last taboo of the menstruating body is one that should be challenged.

This is explicit art, but not in the sense that gets right wingers scuttling to the hills in a frenzy of moral panic. After all, it’s the Latin word explicare, meaning to unfold, which is the source of our own words for “explicit” and “explicate”.

The self-referential, autonomous and self-determining unfolding body is a beautiful one, and it’s one which threatens a culture which seeks to control how women see their own bodies and those of others.”

So true.


[Image: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Tarz McDonald]

Casey Jenkins writes very thoughtfully about this project, her thoughts about her body, women’s bodies, genitals and more on the website that goes with the project.  Casey is in Australia, and I was unable to see the performance but I enjoyed the discussion it sparked in some company (yes, artists), and in online feminist groups that I participate in.  I’m writing about this project besause a local 3news reporter, Jesse Peach recently conducted a shockingly unprofessional ‘interview’ with Jenkins about this project, which you can view on the 3news website.

I was shocked by the interview, how it was handled and how incompetent Peace was, but mostly, how very disrespectful he was to Casey Jenkins.  So I made an informal complaint to 3news, via their website, you could do one too, or you might be interested in my thoughts, here’s what I said:

Hi there,

I recently viewed Jesse Peach and the ‘interview’ he conducted with Casey Jenkins regarding her recent performance art project, ‘Casting off My Womb’.

I was shocked and disgusted, not because the artist was knitting from a spool of wool held in her vagina, but by the immature, condescending and totally unprofessional behaviour of the ‘journalist’.

An art project like this is important and very relevant, relevant to women, and, obviously explores many feminist issues that Peach cannot comprehend. I am an artist, a mother and a feminist, and I find it disappointing that a project like this was treated with contempt; in the introduction, Peach notes that his producer would never pay to fly him to do a face to face interview with Casey Jenkins (as if this project has little artistic merit or the artist deserves to be treated with respect). Throughout the interview, Peach continually interrupts Jenkins, seems to struggle to maintain composure and unable to carry on a conversation that involved the word ‘Menstruation’. As a woman who menstruates, I find it quite offensive that next he talked about avoiding the ‘gory bits’, presumably talking about blood, and menstruation.

Can I suggest, at the very least you ensure that Peach has some coaching or support so that he can conduct a more professional interview in the future? Can you consider having someone versed and informed on contemporary art and performance art be involved in an interview like this at the outset.

While I have noted many issues I have with the interview, what concerns me the most is how disrespectful Peach was to Casey Jenkins. I strongly request that he makes an apology to her. I also think 3news needs to show leadership and make an apology too.

Angela Carter
[email protected]

I wonder what they’ll say?  Even if they respond…. I’ll keep you posted.

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