It’s unorthodox, but Casey Jenkins’ performance is art. It is being used to convey a feminist message. A message that there’s nothing inherently shocking or scary about the female body, and consequently about her decision to use her vagina to create art. The fear and repulsion surrounding female genitalia is unfounded, like Casey herself says; “nothing is going to run out and eat you.”
By knitting with wool which has been inserted into her vagina, Casey is ingeniously contrasting the common perception of the terrifying vagina with the warm and cosy connotations that knitting carries.
Compared to Marni Kotak, who gave birth in an art gallery, what Casey is doing is small change. Thus, the outrage provoked by this latest display is perhaps more a reflection of the narrow mindedness which still prevails in the art world and wider society as a whole.
Casey’s piece of knitting may not be particularly beautiful, especially considering the project has lasted 28 days (yep, even when she’s menstruating), but she is still creating a piece of art. Some have been quick to label her work as mere attention seeking. That may be the case, but isn’t the point of art to grab one’s attention and make you think? Casey is using this piece of knitting to express her ideas and make a comment on society.
I think we have to question why seeing genitalia on display in an art gallery would be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. ‘Casting off my womb’, does not follow the conventions of art of being beautiful or pleasing to look at. In fact, the piece makes people turn away in horror and disgust at her decision to portray her menstrual cycle on a piece of wool and make a conversation about female genitalia so public.
I understand to some extent her reasoning behind the piece, but I feel placing it in the public view is not the way forward. The piece to me does not inspire or make me admire art, instead it forces me to turn my head in repulsion.
I’m not against nudity in galleries, but showcasing genitalia in such a forceful manner is not art. This is because ‘Casting off my womb’ is not aesthetically pleasing in the way that art should be. I do not feel inspired to appreciate vaginas or impressed by her work. The only thing I am impressed by is her audacity to be so open about her genitals. Still, I feel disgusted by her knitting when she is on her menstrual cycle, allowing the public to witness such a personal act. I feel placing this in an art gallery undermines the art in the gallery and portrays the work as a ‘joke’ piece on the issue of contemporary art.