For My Own Pleasure and Delight
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This paper addresses two separate notions of embodiment – western maternal embodiment and art making as a form of embodied critical resistance. It takes as its subject breeder; my unpublished five minute video installation from 2012, which synthesises these two separate conceptual framings of embodiment as a means to visually and conceptually rupture dominant ideologies surrounding Australian motherhood. Emerging from a paradoxical landscape of fear, loathing and desire, breeder is my dark satirical take on ambivalent myths surrounding suburban Australian motherhood. Portraying my white, heavily pregnant body breeding, cooking and consuming pink, sugar-coated butterflies, breeder renders literal the Australian mother as both idealised nation-builder and vilified, self-indulgent abuser. A feminine reification of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Children, breeder attempts to make visible my own grapplings with maternal ambivalence, to complicate even further, the already strained position of motherhood within the Australian cultural imaginary. Employing the mediums of video and performance to visually manifest an ambivalent protagonist who displays both nurturing maternal ideals and murderous inclinations, breeder pushes contradictory maternal expectations to their breaking point and challengingly offers the following proposition: “This is what you want; but what you’ll get is so much more than you bargained for” (Grosz 136).Drawing upon critical, feminist theorising that challenges idealised views of motherhood; accounts of motherhood by mothers themselves; as well as my own personal grapplings with maternal expectations, this paper weaves reflexive writing with textual analysis to explore how an art-based methodology of embodied critical resistance can problematise representations of motherhood within Australia. By visualising the disjuncture between dominant representations of motherhood that have saturated Australian mainstream media since the late 1990s and the complex ambivalent reality of some women’s actual experiences of mothering, this paper discusses how breeder’s intimate portrayal of maternal domesticity at the limits of tolerability, critically resists socially acceptable mothering practices by satirising the cultural construct of motherhood as a means “to use it, deform it, and make it groan and protest” (Nietzsche qtd. in Gutting).
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