Speaking of Silence, Speaking of Art, Abortion and Ireland

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Sounding the Depths a collaborative installation by Pauline Cummins and Louise Walsh, 1992 reclaimed the female body appropriated by the Eight Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland and symbolically opened it up to speak and even laugh in defiance of patriarchal and heteronormative definitions of “woman”. First exhibited in 1992, the artwork was addressed to the silencing of women about abortion and other denigrated bodily experiences in a deeply repressive social and political climate. More recent artworks which challenge how women’s reproductive bodies are controlled by the state evidence the continued relevance of these themes as related to the Irish contexts, North and South.

This essay considers how art and contemporary pro-choice arts activism explores ways of “saying the unsayable” when abortion is criminalised, stigmatised and largely experienced secretly and silently, to transform its symbols and discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73– 93
Number of pages21
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number1
Early online date27 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2 Jan 2019


  • Art
  • Ireland
  • Repeal campaign
  • abortion
  • feminism
  • silence


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