Nothing else but cant, instructions to Anya Rosen for a paired work for the Cartography of Imagined Places, a project between New York and Sydney, curated by Alex Wisser and Sarah Breen-Lovett (Sydney) and Jill O’Bryan (New York).

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New York, January, 1916, Emma Goldman delivers a lecture advocating a women’s right to control her fertility. She is arrested and spends 15 days scrubbing floors and sewing prison garments in Queens County Penitentiary.

New York, January, 2017, America gets a new President.

This action honours the continuing struggle for a women’s right to control her own body.

  1. Sew a feminist flag and place on a flagpole
  2. Scrub clean the pavement in front of the flagpole
  3. Stand on the cleaned pavement and read aloud the following statement from the trial of Emma Goldman:

“From whatever angle the question of Birth Control may be considered, it is the most dominant issue of modern times and as such it cannot be driven back by persecution, imprisonment or a conspiracy of silence…

Those who oppose the Birth Control Movement claim to do so in behalf of motherhood [but] so long as mothers are compelled to work many hard hours in order to help support the creatures they unwillingly brought into the world, the talk of motherhood is nothing else but cant…

We are told that so long as the law on the statute books makes the discussion of preventives a crime, these preventives must not be discussed. In reply I wish to say that it is not the Birth Control Movement, but the law, which will have to go. After all, that is what laws are for, to be made and unmade. How dare they demand that life shall submit to them?

I stand as one of the sponsors of a world-wide movement, a movement which aims to set woman free from the terrible yoke and bondage of enforced pregnancy; a movement which demands the right for every child to be well born; a movement which shall help free labor from its eternal dependence; a movement which shall usher into the world a new kind of motherhood…

I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent; I never will acquiesce or submit to authority, nor will I make peace with a system which degrades woman to a mere incubator … I now and here declare war upon this system and shall not rest until the path has been cleared for a free motherhood and a healthy, joyous and happy childhood”

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To read a blog about the project click here.
Photos by Panos Rigopoulos, performance by Anya Rosen.