Performance and the Maternal

Performance and the Maternal is a collaborative project born of Lena Šimić and my desire to explore how the maternal functions in, and beyond, representation in the particular disciplines of performance and live art.  As Mike Pearson notes, ‘performance’ is an inclusive term that can bring together a variety of practices from across forms (Pearson, 2010, p.1).  I use the term ‘performance’ here to signify artistic work that focuses on live bodies making real actions intended for consideration by an audience. It seems that performance offers a unique space to explore the maternal due to its durational, live and relational elements: 

  • Performance is a durational phenomena: it is lived in real time and therefore using a performance studies perspective can help us to explore the time-based nature of the maternal. 
  • Performance is located in our bodies: the lived, embodied nature of performance parallels the lived, embodied experience of the maternal. 
Read more...

Thinking Maternity Through Milky Breasts

I gave birth to my daughter Molly when I was thirty-nine years old. Five miscarriages over an eighteen-year period had preceded her. As such, her existence in-utero was always precarious for me and to defend myself I could only tentatively relish in the exuberance of pregnancy. But she arrived, all 9 lb 8 oz of her, curled up in a chunky ball, her full head of hair diffusing the anger of birth in her little red face. The anxiety of whether she would or would not survive the apparent inhospitality of my womb may have been somewhat assuaged on her arrival in the outside world, but for me the precariousness of her existence continued.

Her highly medicalised emergency C-section delivery was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Alive and yet lying on the slab, numb to all physicality except for the waves of nausea, emotions existing only Read more...

Reproductive Justice: Uncovering the Voices of Women to Address Health Disparities within the United States by Ellie Smith

Notable moments occur throughout data collection and analysis that strike researchers. These moments can be especially powerful when experienced during qualitative, in-depth interviews with women about their reproductive health – an immensely personal topic. This particular interview progressed in a typical, methodological manner with no interruptions or abnormal discussions. However, at the conclusion of the interview, the participant proceeded to  thank me, claiming “nobody ever asks me” about her thoughts and opinions. Nobody ever asked about her reproductive health care status and access within the rural, close-knit community she resided. Her voice had been overlooked in the larger discussion of health care access, specifically in regard to reproduction. This interview, and study at large, brought her voice to light, uncovering her story and highlighting her lived experience as a woman of color and a rural woman within the United States.

Women of varying backgrounds, such as women of color and Read more...

Affordable Mothering and Respectability- by Agata Lisiak

The low total fertility rate in Poland (1.3) has repeatedly been juxtaposed, in Polish and British media alike (often in an alarmed tone), with the apparently much higher (2.13) total fertility rate of Polish women living in Britain (ONS 2014). As analysts from Polityka Insight have cautioned, these numbers tend to be taken out of context: if we consider the overrepresentation of young women (20-39) among Polish migrants, Polish women in the UK give birth to only 15% children more children than their counterparts in the same age group in Poland. And yet, it remains a fact that the birth rate in Poland sank considerably from 2.0 in 1990 (GUS 2014), and the new government is set on reversing this trend.

The campaign program of Poland’s conservative party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość), who won last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, included a proposal to introduce Read more...

Towards a “maternal commons”? Exploring the potential political resistance of televisual birth

SaraDeBenedictisBy Sara De Benedictis

On the 10th March 2014 artist Sheona Beaumont gave birth to her second child, Dylan, on the BAFTA winning Channel 4 primetime television show, One Born Every Minute. Beaumont invited people to comment and engage in the viewing of her birth through social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, during the show. The experience of giving birth on television and the reactions to her birth depiction will feed into her next artwork.

As Imogen Tyler and Lisa Baraitser (2013) argue in Private View, Public Birth, in the past three decades in Western culture we have seen a dramatic rise in the visibility of childbirth. This is somewhat peculiar considering the abject qualities historically associated with the birthing body. However, as they go on to suggest (drawing on Hannah Arendt) the increased presence and focus of birth, especially within artistic sites such as Birth Read more...

Mother of Invention: A new collection of essays on mothering and feminist subjectivity

racheloneillcropBy Rachel O’Neill

MaMSIE readers may be interested in a new collection of essays on the theme of mothering and feminist subjectivities. Edited by Vanessa Reimer and Sarah Sahagian, Mother of Invention combines feminist theory and life writing to explore the many ways in which mothers – whether or not they identify as feminists – can inspire feminist consciousness in their children. Below is an extract from the final chapter of the book, entitled ‘Impressions of my mother: On willfulness and passionate scholarship’, in which I consider some of the difficulties of writing feminist auto/biography.

On beginning to draft this chapter, I realise that I don’t know how to name my mother in writing. Should I employ the formal ‘mother’, the generic ‘mom’, or do I address her as I do in person, favouring the Irish pronouncement, ‘Ma’? What of her own name? Do I need to be consistent anyway, Read more...

Live Online Launch: Maternal Aesthetics

Share Button Read more...