Spurning Fertility/ Smashing Tchotchkes

  • Date: Monday, September 17, 2018
  • Time: 12:30pm
  • Venue: University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Avenue
  • Admission: FREE

At the Hive - University of Winnipeg.

 Kay Turner has investigated both the productive and perilous symbolic meanings of female fertility throughout her 40 year career as a feminist folklorist and artist working across disciplinary boundaries in writing, music, performance and ritual. Fertility, in all of its manifest actual and symbolic meanings and associations with women poses endless problems. Despite the Pill, despite the ever-challenged triumph of Roe v Wade in the U.S.A., despite real advancements in women’s reproductive freedom and health the world over, the battle is far from over….
    In her radically performative, radically hilarious feminist work “Spurning Fertility/ Smashing Tchotchkes,” Turner enters the fray with a simple, violent, anti-fertility gesture performed before an audience of well-wishers: the gleeful smashing of cheap figurines that represent women as vessels. These ubiquitous nicknacks, which became widely available in the post WWII economic blush and baby boom era, depict women as baskets; women carrying baskets; women with abundant bosoms holding baskets that catch the spill of their breasts; women as cornucopias filled with fruits and vegetables; women as flowers, holding flowers, giving flowers, becoming flowers; old women, young women, girls and baby women all positioned as empty cores in need of being filled to produce the glories of reproductive glory.
    Turner proclaims, “Enough is enough!!” and gives her audience a certain once and for all, finally we’ve killed it kind of feeling of completion as she discourses freely on the meaning of each little figurine set before her then blithely smashes it to shards with a small hammer. Performed as a lesson in feminist art history, Turner lectures as she smashes, showing the evolution of these quaint, banal dust catchers from Antiquity to Baroque to High Modern to Living Room Mantel to Value Village. The deeply, viciously secure understanding of women’s fertility as vessel in need of seed is thoroughly dismantled. In this performance, and with the encouragement of the participating audience, we can very simply agree to destroy the terms of human reproduction under patriarchy.
    And there’s a song to go with it. Turner teaches her original “Spurning Fertility/ Smashing Tchotchkes” to the audience and invites them to sing along with her at random intervals during the proceedings. The refrain “I don’t want to be a vessel anymore” is suitable for singing by audiences of all ages, genders and identities.
    Turner has performed “Spurning Fertility/ Smashing Tchotchkes” in New York at Abrons Art Center in Manhattan and at Barbés Culture Cafe in Brooklyn. She has also hosted private shatterings. Figurines are scavenged at junk shops, flea markets and from friends. Where possible audience members are invited in advance to bring their own curios to be demolished. Turner dreams of a truly big smash of 100 or more figurines in one show.