“My work has always come directly from my experiences and a desire to experience something outside/inside of my own body. Becoming a mother again feels like I am reconfiguring for the second time, with two children, I am finding it harder to have the space in my mind to think of anything else. I feel things more deeply and see the world and how it needs changing. My practice is no longer me fighting for my voice, it is now a tool to fight for their freedom and our voice. The personal is the political and the political is personal.”

Lost Bodies, 2016

Her body transpired into the darkness that day. Her last breath grew wings: pulling the soul from beneath her bones to the next life. Grief births a visceral journey, which swells and tears the skin, spitting you out onto barren lands. There was death and it took me with it. ‘Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. The wildish nature comes to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped’ (Clarissa Pinkola Estes). 
This new performance is the first few breaths of a new life, with a new voice, in new flesh. In ‘Lost Bodies’- artist Nicola Hunter will be celebrating loss as a strengthening process, a metamorphosis and a return to the wild.  

Milk

‘Milk’ is a political intervention performance which has taken place in a range of public arenas across the UK. ‘Milk’ is an investigation into the othering of mothers, with a focus on the milking body.

‘Milk was presented around dusk in the shop window of the old Oxfam shop across from one of Leeds most iconic landmarks, The Corn Exchange. Passers by stopped, often creating a bottle neck in the narrow footpath that curved with the building. The spectrum of public reaction ranged in the extreme, from the inquisitive yet supportive through to out and out disgusted. A noteworthy positive reaction came from a group of teenage boys who after having the reasons for the work explained to them, they then took it upon themselves to become advocates of the work and to explain it to other members of the public who had similar questions. “it’s just natural” was a comment from one of the boys that sticks in my mind. Many people who stopped understood the significance of breastfeeding as a contested space in society. Of the audience I witnessed it is fair to say that young children’s reactions were the least provoked, (they found it quite normal, if beautiful and other worldly). Woman, and I assume mothers in the age range of late 40’s and above were those who seemed most dismissive of the performance. They audibly, physically showed their repulsion. In one case a woman was so appalled by the image created that she decided to call the police. She launched a tirade of accusations at those of us who were present to witness the work. We became demonised. “this is abusive” she declared. She was angry and unwilling to discuss with us what it was about the performance, the image that invoked such rage… hate even. Four times she came and went, each time she called the police. Each time she hurled more abuse at those of us present. Finally the police arrived. The line the police took with us was the most worrying. They requested that we end the performance. We held our ground and pressed the police on what law was being broken. They told us that it was a public disorder offence and we were at risk of criminal charges. Nicola’s baby was implicated as being at risk of being referred to social services. Things escalated very quickly and still we held our ground. What law was being broken? The performance ended and the police left after things calmed down. I realised how out of my depth I had been as a facilitator to the work. I did not seek permission for the performance. I hadn’t thought I’d need to. It’s not exactly a licensable activity, to express milk. ‘ – Adam Young, LAB

Raising the Skirt

Nicola Hunter created ‘Raising the Skirt’ from a place of extensive research into the historical links between the vulva and power as well as from a deeply personal place of overcoming judgement that was placed her own body. The historic and the personal were weaved together with the threads of her performance practice which questions notions of beauty and the status of women both socially and culturally while confronting how the female body is translated across mass media. From these interlinked places she set out to create a space that was rooted in hidden traditions, forged in personal experiences and connected in an ever-expanding community.
The act of lifting the skirt has been translated across cultures and geographies. It was known as Anasyrma or Ana-Suromai in ancient Greece, Anlu in Kom communities and many more. A flash of the cunt has been known to calm forces of nature; in Madras India women were known to subdue storms by exposing their genitalia. In other folklore women could drive away devils, evil spirits and even invading warriors. Raising the Skirt is working to evoke these narratives by using a deep placed femininity and somatic drive to reclaim the cunt as a powerful tool in assertion.

‘Raising the Skirt’ began in 2014 as a three-day LADA-DIY workshop and through an ongoing collaboration with Dawn Felicia Knox has gained international attention. The project continues to create a dialogue around the taboo’s associated to female body politics by creating a deeply intimate space which focuses on observation, exploration and the reclamation of our own and collective body.

Between the Earth and Her Skin
Suffocating in the deepest darkest part of myself. As the last weight of shovelled earth is dumped on my head, the reality hits as to what I am about to embark on, fighting death, a task I gave myself.
As adults and children alike come into the space and take one of the 100 envelopes that I hand stamped and hand made containing individual parcels of Motherwort seeds, Motherwort being a symbol of strength, love and of the mother. Participants are welcomed into the space to plant these seeds and water the soil above my body, which shifts and moves with my inhalations and exhalations.

After ninety minutes of feeling every single beat of my heart and the pressure on my skull from the weight of the almighty force above me is now too much, it takes me some time to pull to my feet and I’m shaking.

I hand pump my right breast, trembling; I pour the milk I make into the same watering can used to water the seeds and fertilise the soil with an offering from my body. It is a dark place I went to fight myself. I gather some soil in my hands and encourage participants to do the same, we walk together to the land outside. We take the seeds and the soil to their resting place, one by one.

Landing in Their Skin

MothernessWhat is it to birth a child?

‘Landing in Their Skin’ is my debut project as a photographer, it aims to document the birthing body across gender and culture. 

I am looking to hear from all people who have birthed children or are currently pregnant that wish to contribute to this project, I would like to document your journey during pregnancy and after. I am looking to collaborate with all people who wish to share the other side of this chaotic but beautiful journey…. the breastfeeding on the toilet, the sleep deprivation, the anxiety, the messy rooms, the laundry piles, the screaming hungry children, the changes in your body, the stitches, the bloody towels to the babies in care and the painful stories of loss.
I want to help you share with the world the reality of parenting, the side that doesn’t often get seen.

…more about Nicola

Nicola Hunter continues to develop a feminist arts and photographic practice, which is rooted in action based performance and spans live work, documentations of its products & traces and the re-presentation of these in other forms. With an active interest in exploring the anthropological body, Hunter explores the ways that social, cultural and political dynamics shape the perception and understanding of the human body and how these interactions are interpreted through social engagement.

Born in North East England (UK), Nicola Hunter has been performing and showing work nationally and internationally since 2007 within programmes such as Momentum Festival (Brussels), ]performance s p a c e[ (London), Inbetween Time Festival (Bristol), City of Women (Ljubljana) and SPILL National Platform (Ipswitch). She has collaborated with Predrag Pajdic, Manuel Vason (Double Exposures) and Ernst Fischer and has been awarded the Artsadmin Bursary, the Artists International Development Fund and has been supported and mentored by Unlimited,  Live Art Development Agency and Pacitti Company.

Web: www.nicolahunter.com/www.raisingtheskirt.com