This book of multivalent narratives began with a simple premise: the collection of sheets of paper—ripped from books—featuring multiple photographs and inlaid narratives. Across a decade of working on other projects involving pulling images apart from one another, excising them from the page and recontextualizing them as new sets, American artist Carmen Winant diligently collected disparate sheets, skimming them off the top of her other ongoing collections. The book that has resulted from that work is wide-ranging in terms of subject—with sheets depicting rabbinical study, dog training, surgical birth, methods of tantric sex, patterns of the sunset—yet specific in approach and application. Her constructed pages trouble how the idea of “theme” operates as the engine of a book, instead taking the act of arranging, both in discrete pages and as a whole, as its own meaningful subject. Arrangements, a book without explanatory text, might be understood as offering design solutions, proposing strategies of recycling and recovery, and demonstrating modes of sociality through systems of photographic organization. Carmen Winant (born 1983) is an artist and writer and currently holds a position at Ohio State University as the Roy Lichtenstein Endowed Chair of Studio Art. She is the author of several artist books including My Birth and Instructional Photography, and was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography in 2019 and a Pew Center for Arts & Heritage grant in 2020. Winant lives and works in Columbus, OH with her two sons, Carlo and Rafa, and her partner, Luke Stettner.
Combining text and image, My Birth, by Columbus, Ohio–based artist Carmen Winant (born 1983), interweaves photographs of the artist's mother giving birth to her three children with found images of other, anonymous, women undergoing the same experience. As the pictorial narrative progresses, from labor through delivery, the women's postures increasingly blend into one another, creating a collective body that strains and releases in unison. In addition to the photographic sequence, My Birth includes an original text by the artist exploring the shared, yet solitary, ownership of the experience of birth. My Birth asks: What if birth, long shrouded and parodied by popular culture, was made visible? What if a comfortable and dynamic language existed to describe it? What if, in picturing the process so many times over and insisting on its very subjectivity, we understood childbirth and its representation to be a political act?