Have you heard of The Great Wall of Vagina? That’s right, vagina.
It’s a masterpiece of a Brighton-based artist Jamie McCartney in his latest exhibition Skin Deep. The artwork, which unfortunately was only on display for the month of May, is a 9-meter-long wall that consists of “four hundred plaster casts of vulvas, all of them unique, arranged into ten large panels.”
This controversial piece can be interpreted in different ways, but many female participants themselves see it as a positive step towards demystifying the feminine.
Our media displays the female body again and again in a range of different ways, but the vulva is always left hidden and untouched in the day-to-day imagery we receive. Pornographic films, on the other hand, emphasize on displaying the vagina, but the type of genitalia shown in porn is very limited. Therefore, currently, the only representation of the vagina available is the pornographic vagina. Also, at the same time, the idea that porn films show what the rest of the media is not allowed to show, further enforce the idea that the feminine private parts are something to be hidden.
McCartney hopes his artwork will make talking about female genitalia more normal. He says he first came up with the idea five years ago when he begun to realize how many women suffer from low self-esteem because of the look of their genitals.
“I had no idea women had anxiety about their private parts. I began to wonder, as an artist, if I could take this any further.”
Mardi, one of the 400 participants, describes her experiences of participating in the artwork in the following way:
“Looking at it from a cast I was quietly surprised. I was very pleased with it. Vagina is a really important piece of equipment. It’s the gate way to life, really. This is a much softer way to record what your body looks like.”
And the piece really is a spectacle. The sexual has become nonsexual. Mardi continues, “I like the ethos of the piece, of showing different women all the different types of varieties of vagina which one can have, which we now know is lots!”
Josetta, another participant, talks of the social significance of the wall:
“It really helps you get over any body issues, I think. Lots of women feel the shape of their vagina is a bit different, because they are all different… To bring back the idea of women’s bodies, and parts of our bodies, into an art, I think is very different to women being objectified with a pornographic, sexual, or the male gaze.”
Finally, she concludes in a way that also speaks for Women for Rwanda: “The whole nature of the project feels very empowering to women. That in its self can counteract the kind of damaging view of women.”
We’re interested to hear what you think. Do you find McCartney’s spectacle vulgar, uncomfortable to see, or perhaps further objectifying women? Or, would you agree with Mardi and Josetta, that the artwork is empowering women, breaking patriarchal norms, and demystifying the hidden? If you’d interested to find out more, have a look at The Great Wall of Vagina film gallery here.