How can something that doesn’t happen have a history? How can there be a material trace of un-pregnancy in the archive? This exhibition explores this paradox, finding and reimagining a material history of pregnancy feigned, imagined, hidden and difficult to diagnose. Whilst reproductive medicine is at the front of scientific modernity, biomedical technology has no jurisdiction over the experiences of waiting, unknowing and disappointment. Those experiences are not new and historical sources offer ways to rethink them for the present and the future.
Conceiving Histories is a collaboration between literary historian, Isabel Davis, and visual artist, Anna Burel; from it emerges creative and fictional reworkings of the archival materials of un-pregnancy. This exhibition re-materialises the past, giving structure and shape to things that have been left to us in text. The artworks explore the search for knowledge about a reproductive body which is as opaque as history: resistant, mediated and illegible: for signs of pregnancy in, from and on the body, and for messages and messengers, divine or earthly. Empty uterine spaces are imagined here displaced from the corporeal frame, labelled and dated, filled with strange visions. Swollen and flat structures, pads and envelopes, hollow and filled, contrast the fantasies of or desire for pregnancy with the reality of the un-pregnant body.
Along side the exhibition we are also holding some events, a Being Human Festival public talk about the making of the work and the research behind it, and an academic/artist symposium. These events are free, but you do need to book a place. You can find out more about the exhibition and the events here.