Projects > My Body Is Mine
My Body is Mine project.
According to the New York Farm Animal Save there are over 80 live animal businesses in the NYC five boroughs area. There are four within walking distance of my apartment. These urban farmed animal slaughterhouses imprision and slaughter chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigeons, quail, ducks, guinea hens, lambs, sheep, goats, young cows, bulls and pigs. As one walks closer to the vicinity of a "live poultry" business a noxious mix of blood, urine, feces and death penetrates the air; walk through the door and the stench of the slaughterhouse is assaulting. Rows of filthy cages stacked on top of each other line all sides of the walls. The animals are stuffed into the cages, huddling together with a pale disquieting awareness. Men in long plastic aprons and rubber boots preside over the inmates. When a customer wants to purchase an animal; the man grabs the frightened animal out of the cage to the alarm of her cage mates and carries her upside down by her feet or hind legs--wings flapping, bodies’ writhing-crying out. There is no thought for her; she is degraded, reduced to a food commodity and that's all. She is bound, weighed and killed within minutes. The customer is handed a plastic shopping bag that contains a warm dead body...
I conceived of this art project as an eco-feminist protest that aligns feminism with animal defense. The message "my body is mine" is carved into a woodcut of a nonhuman animal silhouette. The starkness of the message resonates with me on multiple levels while situated within the entangled intersections of animal advocacy and feminism. One might take for granted the privileged right to your own body, yet bodies are also sites of unspeakable brutality and oppression through the many systems of racism, sexism, ableism, and speciesism.
Farmed animals are denied even the most basic form of consciousness: that of sentience, their lives are utterly erased so that their bodies can be manufactured into "meat". Female farmed animals are condemed to a lifetime of physical and emotional torture for thier eggs and milk before being sent to slaughter.
My first woodcut was pasted on an abandoned abattoir wall where great numbers of animals were slaughtered around the turn of the 20th century. Tracing slaughterhouse history in Brooklyn is difficult; so I asked an elderly man that has lived in the area all of his life if he knew the whereabouts of some of the first industrial-sized slaughterhouses of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He told me about several that existed not far from my studio along Johnson Avenue and I managed to dig up an undetailed map of a section of Bushwick that notated the location of five old slaughterhouses. So my first sow pasting was on the wall of a once 1910’s-50’s abattoir.
Since then I’ve come to the idea that these woodcuts should be pasted on the present day “live poultry” slaughterhouses that exist around my neighborhood and further out in Queens. My Body is Mine has grown from a historically sad and forgotten place to one that I feel viscerally, their voices clearly heard as I paste. I ponder the question posed by a fellow artist and friend, "what makes for a grievable life?" My intention is to acknowledge the beingness and presence of each inmate. It is an insufficient protest, one that can never set them free. But I do it as a way of bearing witness to their anonymous suffering and death. Each time I paste a woodcut on an outside wall I take a picture. Within days the woodcut has been shredded off. I don’t know how many people take notice of the woodcuts, and if they do, do they think about the message?
* I used the feminine pronoun in the first paragraph as a way to streamline the narrative, a large percent of animals in the industry are in fact female; because of thier biological ability to produce milk and eggs. However, it's not uncommon to find cockerels, young bulls and rams for sale in these establishments.
My Body Is Mine