Clockwise from top left: Carmen Winant. Photo: Luke Stettner; Ani Liu. Photo: Ani Liu; Dána-Ain Davis. Photo: Alex Irklievski; Viva Ruiz. Photo: Michael Love Michael
“Why were there no images of birth?” This question inspired Judy Chicago to launch The Birth Project (1980-85). For five years, she studied creation myths, surveyed women about their birthing experiences, and produced an iconography of birth imagery across drawings, paintings, and collaboratively embroidered textiles. Now, forty years later, this convening revisits Chicago’s “awe, terror, and fascination” with birth, exploring this critical area of research and artmaking through a contemporary lens.
Together with artists, activists, and writers, we will ask: What is at stake in the representation of birth today? How do developments in technology, surrogacy, and family structure affect the experience of giving birth? What do issues of reproductive justice—including abortion access, medical racism, and maternal care—mean for artists and cultural institutions? What new speculative futures could artists imagine for human reproduction?
Carmen Winant, artist and writer; Dána-Ain Davis, Professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology and the director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the CUNY Graduate Center; Ani Liu, artist; and Viva Ruiz, artist and activist of Thank God for Abortion, will each make short presentations, followed by a conversation moderated by Alethea Rockwell, Keith Haring Director of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum.
A recording of this conversation can be found on our YouTube channel and below:
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Carmen Winant (she/her) is an artist and the Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Studio Art at the Ohio State University. She utilizes installation and collage strategies to examine feminist networks of care and solidarity. Winant’s recent projects have been shown at MoMA, Sculpture Center, Wexner Center of the Arts, Cleveland Museum of Art, ICA Boston, El Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Winant is a 2019 Guggenheim, a 2020 FCA Artist Honoree, and a 2021 American Academy of Arts and Letters award recipient. She is a mother to Carlo and Rafa, shared with her partner, Luke Stettner.
Dána-Ain Davis (she/her) is Professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology. She is the director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the CUNY Graduate Center. Davis’s work covers two broad domains: Black feminist ethnography and the dynamics of race and racism. With regard to the latter, she has examined the ways race and racism animate neoliberalism and reproduction. She is the author of Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (NYU Press 2019).
Ani Liu (she/they) is an artist whose work examines the reciprocal relationships between technology and its influence on subjectivity, culture, and identity. In their research-oriented practice, she has utilized techniques ranging from sculpture, laboratory work, biometric sensing, perfumery, robotics, AI, and cell culturing. Often using the body as a point of inquiry, they’ve used materials ranging from breast milk, sperm, knitting machines, and wet robotics to explore themes including biopolitics, labor, and care work.
Viva Ruiz (she/they) is a community- and sex work-educated artist and advocate, descendant of factory-working Ecuadorian migrants at work and play in New York City. They work in performance, film, writing, music, photography, and dance in celebratory and collaborative practice. Since 2015 Ruiz has been building power and birthing pro-abortion aesthetics with the Thank God for Abortion (TGFA) initiative whose mission sits at the intersection of abortion access, queerness, and spirituality.
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