Childbirth art

Review on Birthrites show in Glasgow — I’m sorry, can’t find the reference

Leo rules children and creative fecundity; and currently at Glasgow Science Centre, Scotland, till September 1st, there is an exhibition, dedicated to the birth experience. It was originally inspired by two women, artist Helen Knowles and art history graduate Phoebe Mortimer. They decided that childbirth (a major experience in life) was sadly under explored as a subject for artistic response. All other human powerful experience and emotion such as love, pain, passion, suffering, war, sex, death, and angst are all plentifully explored in the arts, but there was a crucial gap in the market. Hence the exhibition Birth Rites was born. Five artists shadowed obstetric and antenatal staff and then recorded their responses to their observations on canvas and via the medium of photography and video-art. This exhibition is both sensitive and graphic. This is not just an all female affair, two male video-artists reveal through their work the mixture of alienation, confusion and overwhelming involvement of the father in a birth environment. The juxtaposition of the impersonal technology and gadgets with the emotions of childbirth and especially the essential emotional isolation of the mother, despite being surrounded by people, is poignantly documented.

It is interesting that this show which moves to Manchester museum, England, in September, is confined to science venues. Knowles has found a reluctance of galleries to want to get involved. She says “what we are finding is that there is still a lot of fear around the subject matter” For such a ubiquitous, fundamental and undeniably profound phenomenon as child birth, this surely is odd.

Sexuality and childbirth are curiously separated in our culture; the former is explored and exploited ad nauseum, the latter strangely disengaged and demoted. It is sometimes easy to forget that they are so intimately linked. The means have been hugely elevated (no pun intended) above the ends: the definition of Anomie.

The period of time from Scorpio (sex) to Cancer (birth) approximates to the gestation period.


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