I'm the 'vaginal knitting' perfomance artist – and I want to defend my work
A couple of years ago, three separate friends told me that they’d dreamt of me the previous night. My cameo appearances weren’t spectacular (in my friend Meg’s dream, I was cast as a taxation specialist) but the coincidence struck me as poignant. That ephemeral images of me had floated unbidden into three distinct dream worlds made me feel, somehow, that I existed more solidly in this one.
Over the past two weeks, over 3.5m people have watched the YouTube clip shot by SBS2 documenting my 28 day performance piece, Casting Off My Womb, at Darwin’s DVAA. The short clip, which SBS2 titled Vaginal Knitting, gives an overview of the work in which I used skeins of wool lodged in my vaginal tunnel to knit a long passage, marking one full menstrual cycle
My image and work have been consumed, contemplated and commented on by millions across the globe. It’s interesting then, and gives an insight into the performance’s heart, that all of this electronic crackle and buzz has not altered my identification with it at all. My image and imagery of my work has zipped through minds from Nigeria to Taiwan to Finland yet, in many ways, the personal impact has been less than the dreams of a few friends that I felt marked me more firmly into existence.
The response to the clip was immediate, massive and, for the most part, negative, marked with fear and repulsion. The word "ick" features heavily, as do "eww", "gross" and "whyyyy?". Exclamation points are afforded entire comment boxes, broken only by the odd question mark. Everything comes in for criticism; the menstrual blood used in the work probably cops the most, but viewers have taken swipes at my hair-cut, my eyebrows, my skin, my home-city, my choice of words, my knitting technique and the colour of my shirt. The nature of the response wasn’t unexpected, but the scale of it was and it’s been fascinating to watch.