Don’t Try to Censor Me

Sitting in literal granny pants, wearing a knitted breast bra, and looking like Botticelli’s Venus.. this was Private V Public in her public performance ‘Censorship’.

The unintentional centrepiece of the Multi Exhibition in the Matthew Entrance Gallery, an exhibition she facilitated and co-curated, the performance involved the final year student inviting participants in to have a one-on-one conversation about censorship in our society. She explained: “I wanted to deal with censorship and get people’s views on how they conceptualise it and what they think of it. I have found it quite funny, because I have had men in and they have really stuck to focusing from the chin up, whereas women have been happy to look at my body and laugh at the knitted breasts and make comments on my figure.”

The breasts were knitted by PVP’s mother, an intentional choice to have the female members of her family on some level present in the room. A nod to matrilineage. The breasts were knitted for PVP’s sister, who used them in breast-feeding demonstration workshops before giving them to PVP for the performance piece. This tension between practical, medical concerns and the more sensual connotations of female breasts and semi-nudity is reflected in the décor. The room is made out of screens, both hospital ones with wheeled feet and wooden modesty ones covered in three-colour separation screenprints of vulvas made by PVP herself. A lamp of vulvas also gives the space a warm, red glow.

“I wanted to subtlety put the idea of red light districts in people’s heads,” explains PVP, “But it’s also about women’s health and things like cervical screenings. I have known several people who are close to me that have had screenings that have shown pre-cancerous cells. It’s one of those things that we don’t generally talk about, but that we should talk about more openly.” She also references recent attempts to find non-hormonal contraceptives, and the traumatic nature of some of the more invasive procedures.

But, the core topic of the performance is censorship. We talk about selfies and sharing images of our own bodies on social media, the rights and responsibilities of the female artist, what terms like ‘duty of care’ mean in an art college setting, and whether performance artists should be required to fill in risk assessment forms. It’s hard to tell where the live art ends and the interview begins.

Words & Image: Ana Hine


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