Maggie Nelson on Tala Madani’s “Jaunty, Morbid” Masterpiece, The Womb

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AN41 Maggie Nelson
Self-portrait by Maggie Nelson

“The triumph of The Womb lies in its tone – it is alarming, funny, profound and cathartic all at once,” says the LA-based poet and writer

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine.

The Womb [2019] by Tala Madani is a very short piece of video art – 3 minutes, 26 seconds. I first saw it at Madani’s mind-blowing show Shit Moms, at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles in the fall of 2019, when we had no idea of the 2020 awaiting us around the bend. Even then, I had the strong feeling that The Womb was a necessary – urgent, even – preparation: for the foetus, most obviously, who here gets a crash course on the history of the world, with all its absurdity, technology and violence – but also for the mother, who houses the projection, and the viewer, who is made aware of her own entrapment in the nightmare of history. Like much of Madani’s work, the triumph of The Womb lies in its tone – it is alarming, funny, profound and cathartic all at once. I’ve thought of it often over the past year, as its jaunty, morbid and dauntless vision has heartened me at moments when I felt most gripped by a ‘I can’t go on/I’ll go on’ state, which was, let’s be honest, nearly constant.”

LA-based author, poet and thinker Maggie Nelson navigates the messiness of life in clear-eyed prose, untangling knots in our language and finding breathing spaces in ideas that seem sewn up and impenetrable. Her genre-defying books include Bluets, a freewheeling paean to the colour blue, The Argonauts, a luminous meditation on love and identity, and The Red Parts, a haunting account of the 1969 murder of her aunt and its fallout – all works that draw on a vast library of critical thought, pop culture and the minutiae of daily experience to make their investigations. Nelson’s new book, On Freedom, puts that weighted and unwieldy concept under the microscope, exploring its many meanings, ambiguities and possibilities in the four realms of art, sex, drugs and climate.

This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.