In the 1970s and 80s, when menstruation was generally considered taboo, artist Jay Critchley made art out of discarded plastic tampon applicators washed up and collected on local beaches. With no idea what the items were used for, Critchley could not have known that his curiosity would lead to a decades-long quest to understand and improve issues surrounding menstrual product waste.
Critchley did not succeed legislatively, but his artworks document a history of protest through creativity and solidarity nonetheless. It is a timely story that predates the current interest in menstrual environmentalism by decades, linking the contemporary movement to a history of collective action against marine debris, consumer boycott, and protest against corporations. Based on interviews with the artist and visual analysis of his archive, this paper presents Critchley's ‘environmenstrual' works in an art historical light for the first time.
Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik is Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Art History at the University of Aberdeen. She is Honorary Research Fellow at St Andrews and the PI of the Menstruation Research Network UK, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
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