Programmed to Reproduce psychological-endurance artwork. For five hours a day over seven days Jenkins read aloud and absorbed some of the tens of thousands of almost exclusively derogatory comments made about them and their work on social media following Casting Off My Womb.
The work was split into 3 elements expressing the public and private selves and how community expectations bind and shape these. Jenkins moved slowly between the elements while constantly absorbing the commentary.
During Programmed to Reproduce Jenkins constructed an intricate web of single-chain finger-knitted rope fed from yarn lodged in their vagina that gradually formed the first element of the work, symbolising the private self – a womb-like cocoon within the gallery which eventually branched out into a wider web. This structure echoed Casting Off My Womb, the original 28 day performance where they knitted a long passage from yarn lodged in their vagina to mark one full menstrual cycle.
This work was an exploration of the impact public opinion has on shaping individual identity and how communities spread and regulate standards of behaviour and expression.
Though there were reams of comments made about Casting Off My Womb, they were all very predicable – the commenters were moving en masse, repeating the same few core sentiments, as though they were pre-programmed to reproduce and reinforce these basic judgements. One could open up a new comment thread – whether it was attached to a ‘feminist’ facebook page or a men’s rights page – and accurately predict what would be said without reading through.
The same or very similar core comments are directed at anyone who presents as female who stumbles into the spotlight.
For the second element of the work Jenkins read the comments aloud, simultaneously displaying them on a screen. The words became a relentless, dull beating. Many were violent and aggressive, others seemingly more benign though it may be said that the insidious and cumulative impact of the mass of ‘lol’s and the ‘attention seeker’ jibes may be just as forceful as the more bombastic proclamations.
For the final element Jenkins was joined by other (masked) queer performers to recreate with knitting machines some of the comments as large knitted banners. The jarring soundtrack by Manuel Zabel, disconcerting lighting by Darren Lever and brutish force of the hand-operated industrial knitting machines contrasted with the introspection of the first element and spoke to the crude armour and sentiments that we employ in public.
Many thanks to:
Lighting Design: Darren Lever
Sound: Manuel Zabel
Additional Performers: Kerith Manderson-Galvin, Gavriil, Sarah Rogan, Bree McKilligan, Shirley Somers & Sel
And to Arts House, especially Josh Wright, Tony MacDonald, Bindi Green, Angharad Wynne-Jones and Luke.
Psychological-endurance performance artwork spanning 35 hours over 2 weeks
7 x 5hr episodes from March 2-11, 2016
Arts House, Melbourne Australia as part of the 2016 Festival of Live Art (FOLA)
A work in three parts responding to the overwhelming internet reaction to Jenkins’ 2013 performance piece, Casting Off My Womb.
- For five hours a day over seven days Jenkins read and absorbed some of the tens of thousands of almost exclusively negative comments that have been made about them and their Casting Off My Womb work on social media.
- Along with 6 other queer identified performers they recreated using knitting machines and part-menstrual-blood-dyed yarn some of the more incessant web comments.
- Jenkins again knitted using yarn lodged in their vagina. This time, rather than using needles to knit a passage to document the performance they finger-knitted a cord which, over the course of the performance formed a cocoon and then branched into a web.
- Knitting a response to gendered abuse, Georgia Moodie, ABC Radio National Books & Arts Program, 8 Mar, 2016
- Casey Jenkins’ ‘Programmed To Reproduce’ Project Turns Online Harassment Into Art & Reveals The “Pack Mentality” Behind Trolling, Megan Grant, Bustle, 6 Mar, 2016
- What happens when your life goes viral? ‘Vagina knitter’ Casey Jenkins responds with new work, Dewi Cooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Mar, 2016
- The artist fighting internet trolls with her menstrual blood, Dominique Sisley, DAZED, Mar 1 2016
- Woman Who Knits With Her Vagina Responds To Trolls, Keiron Curtis, Unilad, 1 Mar, 2016
- Why Casey Jenkins is vaginal knitting your online abuse into art, ABC News, 28 Feb, 2016
- This woman is using her vagina to knit all the misogynistic abuse she gets online because she doesn’t care what you think, Bethan McKernan, Indy100 Independent, UK, 2016
Jenkins' response is nothing short of brilliant...If there were ever a way to find a positive out of the negative, this would be it — and what creativity, intelligence, and insight Jenkins does it with.Megan Grant, Bustle
Casey Jenkins' work showcases an unapologetically strong feminine identity in the male dominated art world. Jenkins is a woman reclaiming her body and shattering preconceived notions of what she should be doing with it.Lydia Veljanovska, The Public House of Art
brilliant responseJoanne Brookfield, Sydney Morning Herald
Unexpectedly moving, perhaps even inspirationalAndrew Fuhrmann, Real Time Arts
...a poignant but troubling exploration of female rage and womanhoodLaura Elizabeth, Theatre People
It is impossible to overstate the contrast between the gentleness of Jenkins’s performance and the verbal violence of the reactions she cites. I would be surprised if this performance does not create a new feminist or two.Jana Perkovic, The Guardian