Encountering Performing (M)Others: Feminist Maternal Practice in Contemporary Performance

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    This article deploys three exemplars of contemporary maternal performance practice in order to position maternal performance more generally within contemporary feminist performance discourse. Drawing on Hannah Arendt’s work on natality and action (1958, 1963), Lisa Baraitser (2009) on maternal subjectivity, and primarily, the work of the artist and psychoanalytic theorist Bracha L. Ettinger (1992, 2005, 2015) on the concepts of the Matrix, carriance and artworking, the article encounters three examples of contemporary maternal performance – the opening event of the Performance Studies international conference ‘Misperformance’ at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb (2009), Helen Sargeant’s year-long on-line journal M(other) Stories (2015) and Dillon de Give’s By My Own Admission (2016) – all of which conflate representation with action (in other words art with life). In order to produce a more immediate experience of maternal subjective relations and highlight the idea of subjectivity as encounter (Griselda Pollock, 2009), the author works with Ettinger’s concept of ‘artworking’ and Baraitser’s ‘moments of undoing’ and utilizes a more performative writing register. The articles suggests that maternal performance is uniquely placed – both in art and life and through the conflation of representation and action – to embrace notions of vulnerability, dependence, and a certain kind of discomfort and embarrassment, thus enabling more complex and connective social relations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)401-412
    Number of pages12
    JournalContemporary Theatre Review
    Issue number3
    Early online date10 Oct 2018
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Oct 2018


    • maternal performance
    • artworking
    • encounters
    • Ettinger
    • subjectivity


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