You might not know her name, but you probably remember the woman who took the Internet by storm for knitting out of her vagina. (Do I have your attention now?) The artist's project made her a hot topic across all platforms; now, Casey Jenkins is back with Programmed to Reproduce, creating art using the hateful words people threw at her after her previous project, Casting Off My Womb.
Jenkins first made headlines everywhere in 2013 with Casting Off My Womb, a performance art piece in which the artist knitted with yarn she had inserted into her vagina. The performance ran for 28 days at the Darwin Visual Arts Association, and the yarn — partially stained with period blood — was used to create a long scarf. What brought the project to the attention of the general public was a YouTube video documenting it; in total, the original video has been viewed over six million times. Unfortunately, though, what was supposed to be a peaceful and almost meditative expression ended up igniting a storm of abusive Internet hate.
Now, several years later, Jenkins is back with Programmed to Reproduce for the Festival of Live Art in Australia — and she's doing it with the help of the haters. In one part of the show, which runs through March 11, she uses industrial knitting machines to create banners displaying the negative and abusive comments people on the Internet have lobbed at her. She'll also be doing a reading of some of the feedback she received. And, just in case you thought Jenkins was scared away from doing what she believes in, another part of the show will feature her weaving a cocoon around herself using wool from — yup — her vagina.
Photo by Will Box.
In an email interview with Bustle, Jenkins says, "In Programmed to Reproduce, I'm exploring the nature and force of societal judgement, the pack mentality of shaming, its role in enforcing dominant cultural paradigms and its effect on individuals." Pack mentality. I found this to be a particularly intriguing point, because I feel like one or two negative comments can often open the floodgates to more Internet trolls. Can you imagine if the first several people to respond all expressed how much they loved her work? I wonder how that would change the outcome.
Photo by Mark Burban.
"No individual comment was unique; every response had several or dozens or hundreds of clones," Jenkins says. "They often happened in batches, too — so if a headline declared my work was 'disgusting,' most commenters would just parrot that sentiment. In most places on the Internet there are very few restrictions on our expression — we have so much opportunity to express our individuality and yet most people succumb to herd pressure."
Images: All photos courtesy of Casey Jenkins; lede photo by Mark Burban.