In June, an exchange student from the states had to be extracted from a sizable vagina sculpture on the Tübingen University campus in Germany. The sculpture, created by Fernando de la Jara and aptly named Making Love (Chacán-Pi in native Peruvian Quechuan), was reported to have been designed as a celebration of life and the human body; it’s unlikely it was created as a trap for dudes. This incident was one of a few events in arts and architecture this year surrounding the rather sticky attitude people have with vaginas in tangible media, a not so new debate in the design universe that’s enjoyed a wee explosion after this, as well as some much bigger yonic (that means looking like a vulva) structures.
At present, the grandest thing in vaginal architecture is Zaha Hadid’s design for the next world cup stadium in Qatar. Although she’s publicly dismissed her intention of creating a vagina building, some of her statement appearing in the magazine Dezeen, it’s difficult to stare at the design and not contemplate vaginas. Supposedly, Hadid modeled it after a type of fishing boat, trying to design the thing to stave off some of the intense Qatar heat, but many critics have been hard to convince; no matter the functionality, it looks like lady parts. Cue endless one-liners about sprinting back and forth without scoring.
Also, there’s the case of Megumi Igarashi and her vagina (or vulva) canoe. The Japanese artist scanned her naughty bits and 3D printed a massive version to utilize as a means of river conveyance (pussy kayak ahoy!), later being arrested for sharing the data to help crowdfund her artistic endeavors.
Japanese authorities found her art obscene (the Internet’s already called “irony” on this) and now she may be facing two years in prison, for solely wishing to clear up the image of genitalia in her country.
According to The Washington Post’s coverage, there’s already massive support against her incarceration, but it’s kinda terrible that she was arrested to begin with.
Beyond these buildings and modes of transport, one of my favorite examples of vaginas in the design world is a t-shirt released by American Apparel last year depicting a bleeding vagina. The Huffington Post’s story about the arguably NSFW top praised the design and that half of the cash brought in from sales of the shirt go to an art collective called The Ardorous, but wondered who would purchase such an item of clothing. Thanks to lots of TV, the period is already this scary thing (really, all dudes appearing on television shows?), and this calls out such unwarranted discomfort around a very, very not frightening, natural phenomenon.
Whether it be in the form of a small, wearable object, or a giant building made to hold thousands of screaming, sweaty sports fans, vaginas are becoming more and more prevalent in our visual landscape. However much Hadid says that her design was not meant to be yonic, the stadium does challenge a world of super penis structures (people of London, that is not a pickle). In the Dezeen coverage, Hadid said that if a man had drawn up a building that looked surprisingly like a vagina, there’d be no issue; she called out her critics as sexist and challenged them to ponder the nature of their reactions. Though, I’m curious as to why she wouldn’t embrace the accidental yonic wonder that is her stadium. She does raise a relevant question, citing not only sexism in the arts and design fields, but also inadvertently the fear of recognizing our own private parts in our creations. Are people afraid of lady parts on the massive scale?
While I understand her apprehension in accepting the vaginal nature of her structure – she wants others to recognize the other merits of the design, which is beyond reasonable – there’s an opportunity to say, “shit yeah, all you sportspeople, let’s rumble in the biggest vagina ever.” That could engender a broader acceptance of vaginas being everywhere and that they shouldn’t be this hidden body part (while dicks high five the clouds). Igarashi didn’t hide from stigma, instead rafting down a river in it for the universe to see, and she was arrested for it. We have prideful artists being stigmatized, and artists shying away from the apparent truths of their creations, all because we can’t handle some mammoth vaginas among all the gargantuan wangs (I’d read a Ken Follett novel called Mammoth Vaginas; Gargantuan Wangs).
This is only the tip (heh) of the vaginal arts and architecture discourse, but it already paints a picture of a struggle that, like most things, gets the wrong kind of media attention, and inspires discomfort where joy should be. I bet he’ll never say it, but that exchange student’s actual thought process was probably to the tune of, “now THIS is living.”