Single Chanel Video Installation
Mothers experience an intense sensorial phenomenon, utterly unique in aesthetic scope, when near to their children. Touching my own daughter gives me a feeling of extension – her hand feels like my third hand, her back is my back. She is my extended self. This intense corporeal perception of cellular sameness, I believe, stems from the bodily experience of a pregnant mother, hosting this magical growth, nourishing the child from within, and ultimately developing a protective maternal aggression, a willingness to give life and limb for the survival of her offspring.
Edmund Burke describes the sublime as the overpowering of the body by the senses, which provokes our instinct for self-preservation. My own experience of the maternal sublime has been an exercise in desperate spatial negotiation as I seek to accommodate my own specific needs and desires while simultaneously meeting those of my child. Like the mythological Hydra or conjoined twins, I often feel as though my child and I are not separate beings, but a single living unit containing two egos and an array of conflicting needs and desires.
As a single mother, the spatial-temporal relationship between my daughter and myself has been heightened, as has our direct reciprocity, at times cooperative and symbiotic, and at others antagonistic and parasitic. While I simultaneously desire autonomy and proximity to my child, her need to separate from me is essential, to the development of her own self. Establishing a distinct identity and subjectivity, however, necessitates that her mother—the object on which her identity is forged and needs are met—become the other. The culturally ideal mother must, therefore, sacrifice something of her own “self” on behalf of her children so that separation can occur. Logically, however, this leaves the mother with a void and the potential for no perceived humanity of her own.
This, then, is the concern in my artistic practice: how does a mother reclaim a sense of self, authorship, and subjectivity, in a world that may see her only as an object of production and icon of selflessness?
This moving-image piece, a collaboration between my daughter and I, is an exploration of the complexity of our relationship. Our bodies, restricted by the translucent membrane, conjure images of a fetus in the womb, maternal affection, fear of invasion, bodily deformation—at once grotesque and seductively beautiful. We explore the vulnerability and fallibility, the beauty and terror, bound up in a relationship that is complex, ultimately resisting the reduction of the mother to a disembodied symbol.