It’s safe to say that art has always touched on, challenged and exposed social taboos. The new exhibition titled Private Parts at the Thackray Museum of Medicine takes on the taboo and stigma surrounding the titular private parts with ease and humour.
Private Parts expertly weaves the stories of individual journeys of people discovering their gender identities, with musings on pleasure and a healthy dose of information on sexual health and wellbeing.
The diversity of experiences on display makes Private Parts a safe and accepting space for visitors to learn, explore and discuss the complexities of the topics. The human body remains a subject that we’re both inherently curious about yet on the other end of the spectrum we experience repulsion and a lack of understanding. Fostering a deeper acceptance of our bodies, and the variety of shapes, sizes and experiences they come with, is the first step to opening up meaningful conversations filled with empathy.
The storytellers involved in the exhibition are artists, actors and medical experts who come together in a series of installations that challenge the sense of discomfort we feel when faced with a taboo like ‘private parts’. The CEO of Thackray Musuem of Medicine, Edward Appleyard, talks about the significance of uncovering the taboo, even if for our own health: “We hope that this exhibition will empower visitors to take control of their own bodies and identities, and to feel comfortable talking to medical professionals about their health.”
Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect from the show: Shaun’s story shines a light on the need for accessible, easy-to-read sexual health information for people with learning disabilities; while Lynne, a urogynaecologist talks about her experiences in medical settings in relation to the conditions she encounters and the available treatments. Andi and Mike describe their experiences of dealing with the stigma that sadly continues to be a part of living with HIV/AIDS as well as the similarities between instruments used for medical examinations and those used for pleasure. The seven featured voices provide incredibly valuable insight into the nuanced world of our private parts and show that no two experiences are the same.
Making the show more (literally) animated are three illustrated characters representing Health, Pleasure and Identity, created by award-winning, multidisciplinary artist Bobbi Rae. Videos brining the characters to life were made by Hungry Sandwich Club.
As the exhibition explores grown-up subject matter in a way that allows grown-up conversations, it is recommended for visitors over the age of 16.