An Abortion-Oriented Cosmology Tale Debuts in NYC

A steamy shroud of humidity, strobing fireflies dancing among leaves and blossoms, and handfuls of overripe mulberries plunking down from the sky above New York City’s El Jardín del Paraiso set the stage for the premiere of Alexandra Neuman’s abortion-oriented cosmology tale last Thursday, June 20.

Scheduled around the summer solstice and performed on a mound of garden soil, The Collective Womb (2024) reframes abortion as critical to the development of our universe in a creationist myth bolstered by live music, large puppets, womb cookies, and moments of humor. Following its opening at the Manhattan public park, the 45-minute performance will be presented to audiences for free at the 601 Art Space on Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27.

As an interdisciplinary artist and spiritual healing worker, much of Neuman’s work revolves around realigning the human body to its surrounding ecologies. In The Collective Womb, she and co-directors Raychel Ceciro and Logan gabrielle Schulman remove the clinical context and sociopolitical talking points surrounding the process of abortion, instead presenting the dawn of its existence through a conglomerated mythos that references spiritual and cosmic origin stories from across the world.

Before sunset on Thursday, Neuman, and performers Teshale Nuer, Nic Koller, and Blaze Hubbell led a curated song circle that asked viewers to connect with and listen to the earth. The story begins with the non-gendered Mud Person, portrayed by the bewitching Irisdelia Garcia, and three serpentine friends that glean vitality through Mud Person’s act of menstruation — a gift from the Moon. At one point, the Sun forcibly impregnates Mud Person, leaving them catatonic and depressed as their inability to menstruate results in the loss of the serpents. The Moon and Stars grant Mud Person the ability to abort their pregnancy, which results in the return of the serpents and enables Mud Person’s heart to explode into thousands of seedlings that make up the first generation of human beings on the planet.

Though exceptional care and artistry were put into the choreography, props, and presentation, the piece also doesn’t take itself too seriously and humorously leans into the perplexities of performance art through campy props and line deliveries, cue cards for audience reactions, and engaging the audience throughout portions of the piece. What could have easily been pretentious and inaccessible becomes easy to appreciate and uniquely memorable through its engagement of all the senses. It was also an interesting diversion from the strictly medical narrative of “abortion is healthcare,” instead underscoring that abortion is natural; that abortion is the beginning; that abortion is crucial; and that abortions are not terminations, but simply exchanges of energy between the body and the world.

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