The reproductive health care non-profit Planned Parenthood recently teamed up with Tanya Selvaratnam; an arts and culture producer for the purpose of launching Unstoppable Art which is a part of its new campaign to enlighten the public about reproductive rights and interconnected issues, such as LGBTQIA rights, universal health care, and equal pay.
After several months of planning, the initiative unveiled its website on the 2nd of August, 2018 exhibiting the works of ten female artists and writers, including Shirin Neshat, Xaviera Simmons, Zoe Buckman and Carrie Mae Weems.
The Unstoppable Art’s executive producer; Selvaratnam, also commissioned a video by the film-maker Tiffany Shlain for the site. This video emphasizes the organization’s manifesto of eight tenets, including: “We all deserve to be safe and free from sexual assault, harassment, and violence.”
Selvaratnam confirms that the project is not directly tied to the mid-term elections regardless of the fact that it will be completed in November. “It’s not partisan, she added, it’s very issue-based, and it’s to unite people and to work against the forces that are dividing us right now; a total coincidence that we’re launching so soon after the announcement of the Supreme Court Nomination”, of Brett Kavanaugh, an anti-choice conservative.
“I couldn’t be more pro-choice. I absolutely believe on an international universal level that women should have the freedom to choose what they want to do with their bodies.” SHIRIN NESHAT
Neshat opinionated that artists should take every opportunity to speak up for social causes when they can. “I couldn’t be more pro-choice,” she says. “I absolutely believe on an international universal level that women should have the freedom to choose what they want to do with their bodies.”
In participating in such projects, “I bring with me my baggage in terms of who I am and my background and my relationship to women living under the repressive regime [in Iran] where their choices are taken away from them and that is absolutely devastating,” Neshat says. Though born in Iran, Neshat has lived in the US since 1975. In Iran, questions such as divorce or wearing the veil are up to men to decide. “And I think that this is horrifying when a woman does not absolutely have a right to her own life or body in the public and private domain,” she says. “I think really that [the US] is moving towards a place like Iran.”
Selvaratnam selected Neshat’s 1999 Soliloquy photo series, which depicts a woman dressed in black, in front of a monumental building, for her contribution to the campaign,. “I think it’s a very interesting choice, and I think it’s a sense of a woman against authority,” Neshat says. “I feel that a small body—the silhouette of a woman next to this very imposing architecture—somehow it has this feeling of alienation, [and] fighting against a superpower.” This echoes Weems’s work on the site, another black-and-white photograph, in which the artist stands all dressed in black, facing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
“Everyone I hoped would join the collective said yes, so now with Planned Parenthood, we’ve agreed to expand the mandate” from the original ten, to 20, Selvaratnam says. Additional artists and writers are being selected for the next phase and the organizers plan to include men in the group. “We wanted—in this powerful moment with the Women’s March, with #MeToo, with Time’s Up, and the way in which women are leading the way—to really highlight the voices and the courage and the power of women when they bond together”, Selvaratnam says. “But I think it’s very important to emphasize that we need men standing with us, too.”