IN AN IMAGE captured by the Spanish artist Laia Abril, a white coat-hanger is pictured against a grey background. While it might appear to be an innocuous household object, the coat-hanger is a frequently used symbol for self-induced abortions, conducted by inserting the metal wire up the cervix and damaging the foetus.
For the first showing of Abril’s work On Abortion, in 2016, at a photography festival in Arles, France, she transformed the clinical two-dimensionality of this photograph into a disturbing multisensory experience. A dense pile of mangled coat-hangers lay in the centre of a room, assuming an almost sculpture-like quality. Viewers encountered the coat-hangers repeatedly while exploring the exhibition, their menacing pointed ends serving as a reminder of the danger that women face if they are forced to have unsafe abortions.
On Abortion, which examines the repercussions of this lack of access to safe and legal abortions, is the first chapter in Abril’s ongoing, long-term project A History of Misogyny. It includes video, photography, text and sound—she described it as a “conceptual umbrella under which various chapters will be treated in a different manner.” Other series for the project explore similar issues relating to gender, sexuality and health: Menstruation Myths, which will lead into a chapter titled On Hysteria, examines how taboos surrounding menstruation influence young girls, and Las 17 focussed on 17 women serving sentences on charges of abortion and murder in El Salvador.