Travelogue of the Wandering Womb, her Fantastic Encounters and Curious Utterings (2019)

Wendy Morris

Wendy Morris’ work explores the genres of fiction, documentary and autobiography, with a focus on colonial migrations and religious dissident histories. Unique to her practice are her ‘Libraries’ (of ‘Books Withdrawn’), ‘Dictionaries’ (of ‘Exchangeable Words for Travelling Women and Migratory Birds’), ‘Letters’ (to an ‘Old Tree’) and ‘Diaries’ (of a young Roman woman unearthed near Tongeren). Alternative and forgotten knowledge play a major role in her practice. She is interested in how knowledge is generated and passed on outside the traditional canon.

The audio work Travelogue of the Wandering Womb, her Fantastic Encounters and Curious Utterings – a collaboration with vocalist and composer Mariske Broeckmeyer – reflects on the Ancient Greek idea of the womb as a defective body part. The Ancient Greeks saw the womb as a demonic being that, unless constantly pregnant or moistened with male seed, travels through the woman’s body and attacks her other organs. Only certain herbs and fumigations could tame the womb. Here the work is presented in the proximity of an ancient Ginkgo biloba that can be found in the garden of Hotel van Langenhove, a location most commonly used for weddings.

The work is part of her research into Maaij Claesje – a seventeenth-century midwife from Angola and enslaved ancestor of Wendy Morris. Here she focuses on the sources that nourished the knowledge of a seventeenth century African midwife in slavery. Here plants with medicinal properties played a significant role. Apart from this visible intervention, Wendy Morris, on various locations around the city, established medicinal herb gardens and plants with contraceptive effects. The contraceptive properties of these plants were known in the seventeenth century but are no longer common knowledge. Through an urban herbal apothecary she brings this forgotten knowledge back into circulation. The work Wendy Morris presents as part of Alias can be contextualised within the overarching project Nothing of Importance Occurred. By mining unconventional archives for knowledge, this project seeks to uncover elusive histories.

Credits: Travelogue of the Wandering Womb, her Fantastic Encounters and Curious Utterings (2019). Courtesy Wendy Morris. Vocals and composition: Mariske Broeckmeyer. Notes for the Wandering Womb: Wendy Morris.