Review: Interview with Doreen Garner

I came across an artist interview in BOMB Magazine online called Memory and Ritual: An interview with Doreen Garner by Forrest Muelrath, confronting the legacy of J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynaecology. It concerns medical Apartheid, the medial abuse of African American women by a white male doctor. Sims has been exposed by “historical accounts of the brutality involved in the development of his surgical techniques and his racism against black people (Muelrath 2017).” The artist reconstructs severed limbs from prosthetics and other materials that informs her process and supports her conceptual premise. The Sims statue in Central Park, currently surrounded by police barricades and protestors, is the subject of Garner’s November 30th 2017 performance in which she addresses the exploitation of black people.

Her discussion of glass as a medium is insightful, argued to be very flesh-like in its molten form, rigor mortis being simulated as the glass cools and hardens.

The performance exhibition includes a surgical procedure, a vesicovaginal fistulas closure, by black women surgeons on an effigy of Sims, simulating a degrading and painful procedure performed on black women without anaesthesia.

This harrowing and emotional exhibition centres around exposure of a sadist who received acclaim as a white male doctor at the expense of many black female patients. Rather than memorialising him the artist is exposing him for many cruel and degrading procedures he performed that people are unaware of.

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Muelrath, F. 2017. Memory and Ritual: “An Interview with Doreen Garner by Forrest Muelrath.” BOMB Magazine. Archive Issues.

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