Tag Archives: exhibition

Bearing Different Risks – exhibition

i have been really pleased to take part in the AHRC-funded network, Risks in Childbirth in Historical perspective, which is led by Adrian Wilson and Tania McIntosh. This is a collaboration between historians and midwives.  This has fostered some cross-disciplinary conversations and really asked: what can history do today? How can it change and influence current debates.

I have enjoyed finding out more from this network about historical midwifery,  childbirth and pregnancy. My part has to be interject the thought about the risks of not giving birth, which are often not the focus of historical inquiry. Listening to others in this group considering the historical management of birth risk, has forced me to reflect on the more often psychological, social and perhaps insidious risks posed by un-pregnancy.

That project is now hosting a new exhibition which opens at the Thackray Museum, in Leeds on 15th June, and will eventually tour to London and Brighton. It’s great to see this on-going conversation coming to fruition.

Featured image: Eucharius Rösslin, De partu hominis, et quae circa ipsum accidunt (1532).

Fertility Fest 2018

We are really excited to be taking part in Fertility Fest later this year at the Bush Theatre, in London. Fertility Fest is an innovative arts festival, facing the difficult topics of fertility and infertility. There are 150 artists and fertility experts taking part, with a whole range of different events across six days in May (8th-13th).

The festival aims to:

  • Improve the understanding of the emotional journey of people who struggle to conceive
  • Improve the level of public discourse about reproductive science
  • Improve fertility education

Conceiving Histories is about understanding how history can contribute to contemporary fertility health. Modern technologies can, of course, help people to become parents; science can do amazing things. There are many things, however, with which it cannot help. In particular it cannot help us to wait, or to cope with disappointment. History and art, disciplines brought together in the Conceiving Histories project, offer an interesting space, beyond the self, from which to think about – and perhaps even to learn to tolerate – reproductive delay, disappointment and uncertainty.

Some of Anna Burel’s Conceiving Histories work will be featured in the fertility fest exhibition, which is on display across the festival’s six days. The work we’ve chosen to show explores a strange idea from the early nineteenth century for an ‘Experimental Conception Hospital’, an institution in which women would be experimented on in order to understand some of the mysteries of conception.

We are also excited to be taking part in a special discussion session on ‘Unpregnancy: Infertility before IVF’ with writer, psychotherapist and expert on pregnancy loss, Julia Bueno; actor Emma Cuniffe, who played Queen Anne in the acclaimed RSC production of the same name; and historian Tracey Loughran, who has co-edited a path-breaking book on the history of infertility, at Sunday 13th May, 11.45. We are interested to get their takes on history and how it can be used to think about contemporary fertility.

We will be talking about the work we have on display in the exhibition, and a bit more about the Experimental Conception Hospital story. We will be particularly focussing on how this odd institution might give us ways to think about the two week wait and the difficulties of diagnosing early pregnancy, and about science and the desire to get an objective fix on the body.

Anna and I went along to the Fertility Fest launch last Tuesday and there was a palpable buzz in the room. People are clearly as excited as we are to be joining the show. We were given a sneak preview of Camilla Whitehill’s inclusive and charming short play Aloe Aloe, directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson and performed by twelve actors, exploring modern families and the multitudinous ways they are made today. Then Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier gave us their vision of the festival. They hope to change the world, they said; it was a moving call to arms.

Fertility Fest is about getting fertility and infertility talked about more, and talked about better. That’s got to be a good thing. I’m sure there will be sadness as well as positivity at the festival. Our own contribution will, I hope, entertain, but it is also dark and curious, disturbing, confronting the difficulties of the unknown and fantasies of science. Yet the launch was quite definitely an upbeat event. The room was filled with pastel balloons; we each held one as we had our photos taken, like party guests. Coincidentally, Anna and I have thought a lot about the shape of the balloon and its similarity to the uterus (perhaps we’ll tell you about that at the festival). We couldn’t help but see the balloons as so many coloured floating uteri, cheerfully bobbing up to the ceiling.

Find out more about Fertility Fest and book your ticket
Follow the festival on twitter: @FertilityFest

So long and thanks for all the tweets!

We welcomed 1372 visitors through the doors of the Conceiving Histories exhibition in November and December 2017. Amongst the many generous comments in the Peltz Gallery visitors’ book, people described the exhibition as: ‘compassionate’, ‘moving’, incredible’, ‘fascinating’, ‘evocative’, ‘heart-breaking’, ‘haunting’ and ‘emotional’.

 

Anna and Isabel took around six tour groups, hosted a gallery launch and an academic/artist symposium, The Pregnant Archive, with Dr Emma Cheatle of Newcastle. We took part in the Being Human Festival, the UKs first national festival for humanities research.

Cover image of catalogue

We are sending out copies of our exhibition catalogue to those who couldn’t make it but would have liked to. If you would like a free copy contact Isabel (i.davis@bbk.ac.uk) with your name and address and she’ll send one to you.

Isabel spoke to the amazing Natalie Silverman at the Fertility Podcast about the project in the lead up to our exhibition.

 

Four visitors were inspired to write blog posts about the exhibition:

A review by Kerry McMahon, a member of More to Life (an organisation for the involuntarily childless) for Fertility Network UK

Review by Professor Diane Watt, University of Surrey

Review by Pauline Suwanban for Birkbeck’s Institute for Social Research Blog

Review by Leonie Shanks for the MaMSIE Blog.

We also received a great write up by journalist Matthew Reisz in the Times Higher Education Supplement

Although our exhibition has closed, this isn’t the end of the project. Watch this space and follow us on Twitter to keep up with the project.

With special thanks to our funders: the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck’s Centre for Medical Humanities and those philanthropic individuals who donated through our Kickstarter campaign.

With thanks to the Wellcome Trust and Birkbeck College who funded the research behind this exhibition.

With thanks too to all those who came, blogged, tweeted, gave us their feedback, told their friends and generally and in every way supported us.

Photographs © Dominic Mifsud 2016.

Catch us at Being Human 2017

The Conceiving Histories project opens its doors to Being Human Festival goers. Our exhibition [8th November-13th December] will be on throughout the week of the festival and we are also hosting a ‘Behind the Exhibition’ talk at which you can hear about some curious cases of un-pregnancy from the past.

22nd November 6-8pm. Keynes Library. 43 Gordon Square, London. WC1H 0PD. See on a map.

Free. Booking required.

Exhibition

Peltz Gallery. Birkbeck School of Arts. 8th November – 13th December 2017.

Gallery opening times: Monday-Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-5pm. Closed on Sundays. Free entry. See gallery location on a map.

How can something that doesn’t happen have a history? How can there be a material trace of un-pregnancy in the archive? This exhibition explores this paradox, finding and reimagining a material history of pregnancy feigned, imagined, hidden and difficult to diagnose. Whilst reproductive medicine is at the front of scientific modernity, biomedical technology has no jurisdiction over the experiences of waiting, unknowing and disappointment.

Conceiving Histories is a collaboration between literary historian, Isabel Davis, and visual artist, Anna Burel, producing creative and fictional reworkings of the archival materials of un-pregnancy. This exhibition re-materialises the past, giving structure and shape to things that have been left to us in text. The artworks explore the search for knowledge about a reproductive body which is as opaque as history: resistant, mediated and contested. They reflect on the signs of pregnancy in, from and on the body, and on messages and messengers, divine or earthly. Empty uterine spaces are imagined here displaced from the corporeal frame, labelled and dated, filled with strange visions. Swollen and flat structures, pads and envelopes, hollow and filled, contrast the fantasies of or desire for pregnancy with the reality of the un-pregnant body.

Behind the Exhibition

Come and hear about the making of the work and some of the research behind it. This event will be exploring the curious material history of un-pregnancy, that is of pregnancies feigned, imagined, hidden and difficult to diagnose, and how this history can be re-imagined and materialised to think about conception and fertility today.

In particular, we will be further exploring the case of Mary Tudor and her two false pregnancies and twentieth-century frog pregnancy testing.

There will be a wine reception and a chance to visit the exhibition.

 

Conceiving Histories Exhibition

Peltz Gallery. Birkbeck School of Arts. 8th November – 13th December 2017.

Gallery opening times: Monday-Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-5pm. Closed on Sundays. Free entry. See gallery location on a map.

How can something that doesn’t happen have a history? How can there be a material trace of un-pregnancy in the archive? This exhibition explores this paradox, finding and reimagining a material history of pregnancy feigned, imagined, hidden and difficult to diagnose. Whilst reproductive medicine is at the front of scientific modernity, biomedical technology has no jurisdiction over the experiences of waiting, unknowing and disappointment.

Conceiving Histories is a collaboration between literary historian, Isabel Davis, and visual artist, Anna Burel, producing creative and fictional reworkings of the archival materials of un-pregnancy. This exhibition re-materialises the past, giving structure and shape to things that have been left to us in text. The artworks explore the search for knowledge about a reproductive body which is as opaque as history: resistant, mediated and contested. They reflect on the signs of pregnancy in, from and on the body, and on messages and messengers, divine or earthly. Empty uterine spaces are imagined here displaced from the corporeal frame, labelled and dated, filled with strange visions. Swollen and flat structures, pads and envelopes, hollow and filled, contrast the fantasies of or desire for pregnancy with the reality of the un-pregnant body.

15th November 2017- Private viewing and reception 6-8:30pm. Reserve your free place. All Welcome!

Free event: Behind the Exhibition public talk. 22nd November 2017. 6-8pm. Part of the Being Human Festival Programme. Book your free place here.

Academic and Artist symposium. 30th November-1st December 2017. Book a place here.

This exhibition has been generously supported by the Peltz Gallery, the Centre for Medical Humanities at Birkbeck and, through a kickstarter campaign, the following generous individual donors: Neelesh Prabhu; Matthias Schiller; Henry Singer; Jutta Rolf; Familie Rolf; Rémy Burel; Isolde Hahn-Pfaff; David Burel.

The research behind the exhibition was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Birkbeck, University of London.

 

Work in progress for our exhibition

We will be holding an exhibition in November. Put the date in your diaries: 8th Nov-13th December 2017. Anna has been busily making the work that will be displayed there.

Anna:

Creating work in collaboration with Dr Isabel Davis for Conceiving Histories has proven an exciting journey. The works result from an on-going conversation with Isabel on selected case studies. Over the last year and a half we have focused our attention on four case studies: Mary I’s hysterical pregnancies (1555-7); a 1793 fashion for a pad to simulate pregnancy; an 1826 idea for an Experimental Conception Hospital and mid-20th-century frog pregnancy tests.

Photo 16-06-2017, 17 27 57The starting point is most often one or a series of archival documents written at the time of the case study. The original words, the type or handwriting, stamps that appear on these documents have become an essential source of inspiration. The material aspect, the look and feel of paper or vellum, and the idea of history are key components in my creative process. The intention is to put an emphasis on the source materials, the importance of the archive and the journey the documents have made to reach us. Then, there are other inspirational elements that have had a constant presence in my practice like anatomical illustration and costumes.Photo 16-06-2017, 14 56 08

At the beginning of the collaboration I worked on these case studiesPhoto 16-06-2017, 17 50 19 individually. Lately the process has also been about creating bridges between the case studies and the stories they tell, considering ‘unpregnancy’ as a journey from the past to the present and inscribing women today into that history.

The result is a variety of different pieces, some sculptures made of paper, textiles pieces, photographs and drawings. Echoes of shape, words, object or colors work across these different media.

The selection of images featured in this post show the work in progress in my studio during Bow Arts annual open studios in June.

Photo 16-06-2017, 18 16 34

Contribute to our crowdfunding campaign

I have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £900 towards our exhibition in November. Which will be held in the Peltz gallery and be free to all.

UPDATE: Our campaign has made the kickstarter editors’ pick; they’ve badged it as a ‘project they love’.

UPDATE 2: Our campaign has met its target. But it’s not too late to contribute. All further proceeds go to keeping Anna in food as the project goes on, so that she can work on further examples.

£900 doesn’t sound like much but it will make a real difference to the quality of the work and the exhibition. Any contribution, even as small as £5 will help to make it closer to the goal. There are a number of rewards attributed with each pledge, including original signed A5 prints. Or, if you’re feeling really generous you could get your name included in the artwork for the exhibition.

If you aren’t feeling rich enough to contribute financially, perhaps you could help by tweeting about our campaign or by sharing this news on facebook.
With your help I can make this exhibition look its best!
Follow this link to get more information and to help out.
Thank you in advance for your valuable support!
Anna.