Wombmanifesting kitchen

Served up by Florence Peake and Catherine Hoffmann

Come and enjoy food inspired by the many functions and adventures of the womb and its reproductive cycle. We manifest a menu straight from the birth canal onto your plate, taste menstrual soup or placenta pancakes followed by a hot flush shot.

A durational work around a dinner table, the audience contribute to discussions all things menstrual, menopausal, fertile, taboo around female sexual organs. Part sex conversation, part food fest dinner party with performative interventions. 

'Chunks of uterine lining = unexpected fine dining, at Florence Peake & Catherine Hoffmann's Periodic Table.' Richard Dedomenici

Critical writing on Wombmanifesting kitchen for Steakhouse Live festival 2016:

Critical Interruptions is an ongoing project that aims to open up a wide, cross European conversation on performance criticism, its strategies, language and form, led by Diana Damian Martin and Bojana Janković.

Storytelling: ‘My Mum had an Orgasm when she gave Birth to Me’ (Don’t worry, this story is mine to tell; well it’s my Mum’s too actually, but I don’t think she’ll mind) / Catherine Hoffmann and Florence Peake’s Wombmanifesting Kitchen

A red and star lit kitchen: the womb.

A small group of strangers round a table.

The congenial act of being cooked for; being hosted—it settles you in. It creates an atmosphere that, very quickly, becomes ripe for sharing: telling anecdotes as a means for learning (’a means for learning’ sounds quite clinical doesn’t it? More clinical than I’d like, as it is clinical language that this project is potentially aiming to break from: a clinicisation of bodies via language).

Delicious clots of menstrual jelly, and the placenta pancakes were delicious too. Birthing cake, a hot flush.

Stories from lucid prompts: birth, birth control, menopause, desire/no desire for children, first periods, period parties, pregnancy, giving birth, abortions, male menopause, male periods, time off work, pain, disbelief. (These are keywords, because what happens in wombmanifesting kitchen, stays in wombmanifesting kitchen).

The above statement can be redacted in one sense; these conversations shouldn’t stay in there, because perhaps the aim is precisely getting this personal information and stories out. Airing them out, in a specific space, so that they can be aired again, more easily out of our mouths, once we’ve left the womb.

Food is not only a well-used means to bring people together and get them talking, it also uses senses related to the inner body and the mouth. It gets the flesh of your cheeks moving, the pink of your taste buds quivering; it levels out the senses from the ways that they have been ordered historically, and often still are, hierarchised with enlightened sight at the top. Eating makes the inner body present, active, live; it causes it to move and bubble and be filled with sensations.

Wombmanifesting kitchen reminds me of Womanhouse, a 1972 project organised by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. Wombmanifesting kitchen uses feminist tactics similar to those of second wave feminist art, but accelerates them and uses them in a new time and context, for new (or continuing) conversations. Through this piece, the artists acknowledge the need for these conversations to still be taking place; the fact that women’s reproductive rights are still not being addressed in ways that work in both law and education.

A note: I expected everyone’s stories to be similar. This is potentially an affect generated because we are often spoken to as if women and girls are blanket entities with the same experience, and through this blanketing, the experiences of people of non-binary gender and men are not included as part of these discussions. Through this action, the idea of ‘woman’ and what she needs, is generalised, objectified, and as a result can be dismissed—brushed away with similarly solid object statements, spoken into microphones by higher powers.

(The bios of the two artists disclose details of their wombs and their periods and their love; with much of Live Art there is a vulnerability on the part of the artist, and as such, perhaps there is a need to match that vulnerability if writing about Live Art. Due to this, I’ve chosen to bring a short story of my own – see the title above – out of the womb, to stand with this project).

- Jennifer Boyd

Images by Georgina Cook