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. 

Maternal Readings of Pregnancy and Childbirth on the Small Screen- by Rebecca Feasey


Extant literature on ‘reality’ programmes such as A Baby Story (1998), Maternity Ward (2001) and One Born Every Minute (2010- ) make reference to the various ways in which representations of pregnancy and childbirth on television can be seen to either romanticise or demonise the birth experience in relation to notions of authenticity, reality and rigid stereotyping (Maher 2004, Stephens 2004, Morris and McInerney 2010). At a time when women are said to be ill-informed about the birth experience (Maushart 1999) and naïve in relation to notions of age related infertility (Bonifazi 2003), the role and responsibility of ‘reality’ programming might be understood as a key player in educating a future or expectant mother about the experience of childbirth. Therefore, examining the depiction of pregnancy and childbirth in factual and fictional programming is an important part of both media and motherhood studies because the medium has the power and Read more...

From heartache to happiness: the codes, conventions and clichés of the 40-something celebrity infertility story- by Rebecca Feasey

Infertility is a common experience among women within and beyond the UK, and this experience ‘is not usually discussed publicly, at least in detail’ (Striff, 2005: 189). Although a woman’s infertility story is generally only witnessed by the medical profession, there has been a recent trend in the women’s tabloid and gossip sector whereby celebrities share their infertility stories with a willing public. With this in mind I hope to briefly outline the codes and conventions of the celebrity infertility narrative in order to consider the ways in which these confessional discourses might be considered as an extension of the informative public health campaign or, alternatively, as a more stigmatising discourse.


Although there is no single definition of infertility, it routinely refers to a couple that cannot conceive despite having regular unprotected sex (NHS 2014a). Women who are able to become pregnant, but then have repeated miscarriages, are also 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...