4 Mar 2013 5:00pm - 7:00pm CRASSH, Seminar room SG1, Ground floor


Evening Session

Helen Knowles (Artist and Curator of a collection of art about childbirth)



The physical act of childbirth, that most primary element of human experience, has rarely been explored in fine art, even whilst other socially taboo bodily experiences are now regularly depicted and communicated for their ‘shock value’. Most taboo it seems is the actual event of birth, the moments of separation when the mother is pushing the child out of her body. Helen Knowles’ work is precisely focused on exploring and capturing these ambivalent moments of physical separation and psychological splitting. She unpicks the threads of cultural attitudes to birth and looks to unravel the trouble that audiences have with certain kinds of images. That ‘moment’, with the rise of information communication technologies is no longer an exclusively private event. Some women are now sharing their birthing experiences with millions of viewers who are part of the online video ‘community’ YouTube Broadcast Yourself.

This talk will present the recent body of large scale screen prints 'Youtube Portraits' to be shown at the Angus Hughes Gallery in spring 2013 and open up the surrounding debate into the visual representation of childbirth.

Knowles uses screen-grab close-ups of women’s faces exhaling and reclining at the moment the baby crowns, as well as wider views of this moment revealing the women’s euphoria in their domestic spaces. The intimate narrative of birth played out on the internet is of course ‘family viewing’ and yet it opens up the taboo yet undeniable link between sex and birth challenging the separation between women as mothers and women as sexual entities.

Helen Knowles is an artist and curator of the Birth Rites Collection.




Open to all.  No registration required.

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum (CIRF)
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