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Collaborative Doctoral Award, RCA and Birth Rites Collection. The Shared Gaze: Reimagining Sexual Reproduction through Visual Arts Practices

The research project The Shared Gaze: Reimagining Sexual Reproduction through Visual Arts Practices is undertaken by practice in collaboration with Birth Rites Collection (BRC), a collection of contemporary artworks on the theme of birth and the maternal. My PhD project will develop a curatorial strategy to bring attention to devastating race-based health inequalities in maternal healthcare in the UK through visual arts practices in the context of BRC. This will include proposing acquisitions, inviting artists to make new work for the collection, as well as contributing to BRC’s educational and public programmes.

I position my work in the context of BRC as “caring involvement” with discourses around reproduction, with artists, artworks and artefacts I will work with and write about, and with the collection itself (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017, 92). I will develop a situated, responsive, and evolving methodology of care for and through my curatorial work around the sensitive and complex issue of race and reproduction. This project will demand of me to “pay attention to moments where the question of ‘how to care?’ is insistent but not easily answerable….” (Atkinson-Graham et al., qtd. in Puig de la Bellacasa 2017, 7).

The writing for this research project stages historical artefacts and contemporary artworks as Matters of Care (ibid) that speak of how racist and eugenic ideologies are historically deeply engrained in the biopolitical management of reproduction. I use an intersectional feminist approach to consider the complexity of the stories that things can tell about oppressions based on gender, race, and ability. The writing about my research objects is led by care-full questions and by attempts to make things touch, to instigate contagion across place and time. It draws anachronistic and subjective connections between historical objects and contemporary art practice in order to problematise and create discussion about persistent race-based health inequalities in maternal healthcare in the UK today.


More about Nora

Nora Heidorn is a curator, researcher and lecturer. She recently began an LAHP-funded PhD at the Royal College of Art, London in collaboration with Birth Rites Collection. She also works as an Associate Lecturer on BA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins College and has previously worked at Goldsmiths College and The Approach. Her practice is led by rigorous interdisciplinary research in the intersecting fields of gender, race, health and reproduction. She has curated exhibitions, workshops and screenings, and spoken at institutions, universities and project spaces in Berlin, London, Turin, Oslo and Bergen. Recent projects include Sick and Desiring for Bergen Assembly 2019. www.noraheidorn.com

LAHP Collaborative Doctoral Award