Turning Tides

A partnership exhibition with the Foundation for a Just Society.

Featuring Artists Amanda Marie Atkinson, Lucy Azubuike, Uma Bista, Maggie Boyd, Paola Martínez Fiterre, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Lyla Freechild, and Zanele Muholi.

Turning Tides: from menstrual stigma to menstrual justice brings together works by artists and cultural producers from diverse contexts to explore how menstruation is figured in culture, society, and everyday life. By foregrounding menstruation, an experience close to half the world’s population will have for a significant duration of their lives, Turning Tides counters menstruation as taboo, banal, disgusting, or shameworthy. Instead, it calls for a critique of menstrual stigma and explores how it operates and keeps menstruators at odds with their bodies and their communities, and in some contexts, risks their lives.

Menstrual stigma is a human rights issue, as it affects the ability of menstruators to access education, work in safe and dignified conditions, be represented in all aspects of society from health policy to cultural representation, and have the freedom and agency to self-express in ways that are meaningful and cohesive with their lived realities. Menstrual stigma can reinforce gender and other harmful stereotypes, putting some menstruators at risk of heightened bodily harm or deprivation of bodily autonomy. Turning Tides marks a shift in how menstruation is being represented, discussed, and imagined in contemporary culture.

Participants in Turning Tides are from Canada, Cuba, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States. Their works resonate differently: some work in a documentary register, asking the audience to bear witness to violence enacted on menstruating bodies, or to the agency of menstruators despite their oppression. Others ask for a re-examination of cultural values and societal norms with a view to create a more just and inclusive world. Still other works operate in relation to the symbolic or the spiritual, considering the aesthetic power of menstrual blood with references to the source of life, violence, and the erotic. In many instances, artists use menstruation as a lens through which to consider adjacent and interrelated concerns, such as legacies of colonialism and environmental devastation.

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Turning Tides will be on view from Friday June 17 through Saturday September 24, 2022 at Pen+Brush, 29 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010. It is curated by Audrey Cappell and Alicia Ritson, and is a partnership between the President’s Office at Foundation for a Just Society and Pen+Brush.

Turning Tides

June 17 – September 24, 2022

Pen + Brush

29 East 22nd Street, New York, NY
Public Opening Reception: Saturday, June 18th, 12-6pm