Melbourne based artist Casey Jenkins is a self-described “craftivist” who founded Craft Cartel, an organization that seeks to combine crafting and political activism, in 2007. “Craft imbues you with power because you’re forced to contemplate the issue you’re addressing. It’s very reflective in a sense of when you put that message out into the world, people know you must really care because you’ve devoted that much time to it,” Jenkins says.
Jenkins’ most recent performance project, “Casting Off My Womb” (Aussie TV calls it “Vaginal Knitting”) involves the artist spending 28 days (the average length of a menstrual cycle) knitting from a new skein of wool that she has placed inside of her vagina each day. Jenkins explains that her performance would not be a performance if she didn’t include menstruation. While she is menstruating, Jenkins says it becomes more difficult to knit because the wool is wet, and she has to tug on the thread a bit harder. Overall, though, she claims the process is slightly uncomfortable, but can also be arousing at times. For Jenkins, she enjoys that her performance associates the vulva – something that can be found offensive or vulgar or invoke a level of fear – with the comfort and warmth that knitting provides and evokes.
“The fact that [cunt’s] considered the most offensive word in the English language is a real marker of the time that we’re living and of the society’s attitude towards woman. There’s nothing possibly negative about it. It’s just a deep, warm and delightful part of the female anatomy.”
As Gawker notes, this performance is reminiscent of other feminist performance pieces like Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece,” Carolee Schneeman’s “Internal Scroll,” or even Mary Kelly’s pre- and post-partum documents, so Jenkins is not necessarily a trailblazer in the context of this aesthetic; however, that fact that pieces like this still shock and provoke viewers means that there is still much work to be done in the movement to empower women and destigmatize female anatomy. (via gawker and broadsheet)