Sunday, March 12, 2017

Your Words Are My Words

Question: Why is your art full of other people's words when you could have written any of them yourself?

The MAMA Project in Bastion Square, Victoria. Photo by Linda Goldstein.

I'm getting ready for this year's MAMA Project installation at the Deer Lake Gallery, and posting here and there on social media some of the words that the project contains. These words all come from interviews with other mothers. Despite being a writer, myself, with way too much to say, myself, if you ask my family, most of my work comes from interviews. Why? Because people need to be heard. I have a stage. Why would I not share it?

Bigger than that obvious bit of logic, though, is that I don't want to sit on a little soapbox as an artist. It's really very easy to fall into that comfy place, especially as somebody with so much to say (irony: here I am posting to my blog... again). But my own ideas by themselves are rather limiting, even to me. I could absolutely have created an installation about my own experience of mothering, and quickly filled a room with the sounds and text and images of my own experience. It would have been much easier, in fact, not to have travelled around interviewing all kinds of people. But then it wouldn't be about all kinds of people, and it would be easy to write-off my expression as just one person's experience.

Mothering is everyperson's experience. Even people who have never mothered. Even people who have never been mothered. These people's experience or lack thereof is interesting. And most interesting to me is that the more people I interview and showcase in the project, the more diverse the project is... and the more homogeneous. (Whaaaa---?) I mean that as humans we all have similar needs. And these needs extend far beyond mothering and being mothered, but they're rooted in where we come from, as social animals. They're rooted in the feelings we had when we looked up into our mothers' faces as babies and absorbed all of their feelings and needs and history, and developed those things into who we became. They're rooted in how we discover ourselves passing on these feelings and needs and history on down to our own children, or to those we care for in life. The more I record and spread these stories and the emotions that accompany them, the more we see that we are all connected; all sharing the same great love. At its core, the MAMA Project and much of my other work is about human connection, and I need to show a great range of humanity to make that connection happen.

So when I make a book or an installation or a blog post or even just a single painting that is built around somebody else's words, those words are mine, too. I hope that, through the process of seeing them in the context of my work or project, they become your words too.

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