Curatorial Statement by Natalie S. Loveless, March 2012
New Maternalisms started for me with the following questions: forty years after the intervention of feminist art around the sexual division of labour, what is the experience of the daughters of that era, now that they have become mothers? How is that expressed in their artwork and how does this artwork relate to the work that was being done in the 70s? I am thinking, of course, of work like Mary Kelly’s infamous six-year installation piece Post-Partum Document, which she worked on from 1973 to 1979. With Kelly’s work in mind, I invited a group of artist-mothers to produce a performance or video piece speaking to their experience as mother-artists today. These artists use performance to bring attention to the embodied, biological, and material enmeshment of early maternity in ways that stand in stark formal contrast to Kelly’s work. They do this in a way, however, that is not simply at odds with the insights of post-structuralism and the linguistic turn informing Post Partum Document. Rather, while grounded in a “return to the body,” they demonstrate a commitment to non-determinist modes of signification and analysis, opening up the affective, enmeshed, experiential flows of maternal experience in ways that invite us to ask questions about maternal invisibilities and the power and challenge of the maternal to the professional body of the artist.
Lenka Clayton (UK/USA)
Masha Godovannaya (Russia/USA)
Alice De Visscher (Belgium)
Beth Hall & Mark Cooley(USA)
Lovisa Johansson (Sweden)
Hélène Matte (Québec)
Gina Miller (Vancouver)
Jill Miller (USA)
Dillon Paul & Lindsay Wolkowicz (USA)
Marlène Renaud-B (Québec)
Alejandra Herrera Silva (Chilé/USA)
Victoria Singh (New Zealand)
Mama-writer-in-residence Christine Pountney will be live blogging throughout the event at http://newmaternalisms.wordpress.com/
DESCRIPTION OF PERFORMANCE WORKS
Maternity Leave by Lenka Clayton is a durational, Skype-mediated piece that invokes overlapping cycles of responsibility: government to citizen, institution to artist, artist to audience, parent to child, and audience to artwork. Maternity Leave was originally commissioned by the Carnegie Museum of Art for the exhibition Pittsburgh Biennial.
Challenge by Alejandra Herrera Silva is a durational piece exploring the impact and affect of maternal labour.
Milky Way and Jumping Lullaby by Lovisa Johansson. Milky Way is a durational piece inspired by the intimacy of the breastfeeding relation. Jumping Lullaby invokes the unique despair of maternal sleep deprivation.
L’Essence de la Vie by Hélène Matte is an action and text-based piece that offers a provocative, humorous, and sometimes threatening take on maternal embodiment and the cycle of life.
Jill Miller brings The Milk Truck (www.jillmiller.net/themilktruck), a mobile breastfeeding unit that combines guerrilla theatre, activism and slapstick humour, to Toronto for its Canadian debut. The Milk Truck will be running in Toronto from Friday March 23–Sunday March 25, and will be parked in front of the gallery during performances and events. In preparation for its arrival, The Milk Truck is collecting personal stories from mothers who have breastfed children in public in Toronto (at any time, past or present). We are collecting stories to create a narrative about the city.
Dis/sociation by Marlène Renaud-B is an action and endurance-based performance exploring the complex ambivalence of maternal enmeshment.
DESCRIPTION OF VIDEO WORKS
Beth Hall and Mark Cooley present Safe (60 min., loop), a performance and research-based video juxtaposing the daily rituals of child care-giving with the immensity of the information and disinformation overload that has come to characterize much contemporary maternal experience.
Masha Godovannaya presents Hunger (39 min., loop), a performance-based, split-screen video recording her experience of the conflicts of motherhood, creativity, domesticity and critical self-reflection.
Gina Miller presents Family Tissues (6 min., loop), a video documenting and contextualizing a social-practice performance in which she defrosts and discusses her childrens’ placentas with them.
Dillon Paul and Lindsey Wolkowicz present In Place (3 min., loop), a performance-based video that offers a round-the-clock time-lapsed view into the shifting puzzle pieces, rhythms, and textures of the artists’ family routine.
Victoria Singh presents SON/ART: Kurtis the 7 Chakra Boy (22 min., loop), a video that compiles documentation from the seven year LIFE/ART performance that she began on July 7, 2004, in collaboration with Linda Montano (Another 21 years of Living Art). The soundtrack was composed specifically for this piece by Kurtis’ father, Derek Champion.
Alice De Visscher presents Dream or Nightmare of Motherhood (4 min., loop), two short performance-based videos that invoke her fantasies and fears surrounding the experiences of birth and lactation.