State of Labor is a generative sound art composition that uses data sonification to protest the changing laws around access to safe and legal abortions. With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, abortions in 14 states are currently unavailable up to 26 states will implement partial bans or make abortion illegal. Low-income people of color and minorities will be the ones most vulnerable to the new laws, having to travel farther distances for abortion care, seek unsafe procedures, or be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Through computational algorithms, State of Labor sonifies the new increase in mileage a person will have to journey as their unwanted pregnancy progresses.
Partnering with midwives, Wright has been collecting the sounds pregnant people make during active labor starting with her own home birth experience in 2015. As a counter option to the patriarchal hospital system, midwifery is a matriarchal subculture community that encourages a pregnant person to have autonomy over her/their own reproductive experience. The code is programmed so that when a data point in the algorithm reaches the average one-way driving distance under current legal status one will hear the softer sounds a pregnant person makes between contractions in labor. Then when the increased one-way driving distance under the ban is selected the powerful, raw, guttural noises of a contraction will be played. Data for the algorithm was obtained from the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization on sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.
The choice to use the home birth movement as a paradigm and a laboring person as synonymous with reproductive rights is confrontational and contradictory, yet addresses the issue of autonomy. The sounds are as personal as the decision itself. Wright is currently on the board of Planned Parenthood North, South, and East Florida, as well as a mother of two, and as part of her social practice as an artist she wants to galvanize those who believe in self-determination of human beings over their own bodies and against as involuntary servitude. This sound piece will rage against the new anti-choice laws through the mighty and vulnerable voices of women and other pregnant patients themselves.