Prune Nourry’s Artworks Between Bioethics and Evolution

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Degenerations in the application of scientific progress

Prune Nourry is a French artist who delves in bioethics, anthropologic, and evolutive topics through sculptures, installations, videos, performances, and photos.

She focused on the issue of the selective abortion about gender’s preference in a triptych of projects bound to Asia, a continent where this highly-spread practice has led to a severe imbalance between sexes.

Indeed, in many populations, girls were, and sometimes are still today, discarded for boys.

This problem mainly affects India and China because the whole of their inhabitants represents a third of the world’s ones.

In India, Prune chose a local god, the sacred cow Gau Mata, worshipped as a symbol of motherhood and fertility for her milk, and she anthropomorphised it with the features of a girl creating a Holy Daughter.

In this way, she denounced how the cow, considered mother and feeder of humankind, holds in Indian society a role more important than the one of future human mothers who are instead seen as unwanted burdens.

© Prune Nourry, Squatting Holy Daughter, 2010, Bronze, yeux en verre, 84 x 35.5 x 56 cm, ADAGP _ crédit photo Hans Fonk

In 2011, year of the census of Calcutta’s inhabitants, the artist was expecting to see an improvement in the imbalance between the number of the men and the one of the women of the city. While it was registered the worst result since the ‘70s.

So, Prune went there and commissioned a huge Holy daughter to local artisans to create it with their typical visual codes making the artwork’s message more powerful. In the performance Holy River, this colossal sculpture made with clay from Ganges River had a parade in the streets of the city during a religious procession which ended with its immersion precisely in the water of the sacred river.

© Prune Nourry, Production de la sculpture Holy River, Kumartuli Potter’s District, Kolkata, India, Août 2011, ADAGP _ photo Prune Nourry Studio

The artist wanted to repeat such an experience in China too, but of course she could not keep the aesthetic and symbolic features linked to Indian culture; she therefore used a specifically Chinese emblem, like the Terracotta Army of Qin’s dynasty.

This is how Terracotta Daughters were born, they are hybrids between the warriors of the III century B.C. and eight girls from an orphanage.

Helped by specialized artisans, Prune created an army of 108 natural-sized elements and, after having shown them all over the world, in 2015 she buried them in an unknown place of China.

In this way, she created a contemporary archaeological site which will be reopen only in 2030, the year identified by scholars as the topping point of the imbalance between the number of men and women living in the Country.

© Prune Nourry, Terracotta Daughters, Exposition individuelle au Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, Mexico City, Novembre 2014, ADAGP _ photo Prune Nourry Studio

Despite all these projects are dealing with the problem of disparity among genders, artist’s main goal and leitmotiv is to underline how selective methods for gender are not following anymore the original mission of controlling future-born’s health. Rather, they have become instruments of a sort of eugenic choice.

Selection, the natural one, always existed but happened after the birth and not before.

Prune then decided to use the tools and the symbols of this prenatal selection in many of her artworks: from the flasks and phials of the laboratories for assisted insemination in In Vitro series, to the lists with donors’ information in Spermbar.

© Prune Nourry, Performance Sperm Bar, Fifth Avenue, New York, Septembre 2011, ADAGP _ photo Prune Nourry Studio

Therefore, she succeeded in spreading all over the world her denunciation towards what she defines an “enfant à la carte”, a baby ‘projected’ in all his details, choosing his features like on a menu.

During the centuries, science has made fundamental progresses in medical field; is the possibility of prevision for the features of the future-born babies one of these progresses or is it a decline towards a superhuman conception of the human being?

The choice is yours

Useful links:   Prune Nourry’s website
Instagram profile
Vimeo channel

If you are interested, here is the article about Prune Nourry’s latest show at Galerie Templon.

Cover’s photo: © Prune Nourry, Terracotta Daughter #3 Huiyun, 2013, Sculpture, Terre cuite,155 x 55 x 35 cm, ADAGP _ photo Zachary Bako

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