Maternal Exposures

Maternal Exposures

Maternal Exposures In late 1997, following heated public debate – freedom of choice was enshrined within South Africa’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill. The tensions and controversial publicity generated by the abortion debate were useful for more reasons than their outcome. The open parliamentary process facilitated a public display that transgressed deeply held, extremely repressive taboos surrounding sexuality and the private domain. It was at this time, and in the context of the increased subtlety and complexity being forged in the relationship between the public and private realms in South Africa, that this project evolved. Read More In 1999/2000, informed by lively consultation with hospital staff, and working in collaboration with architect Nina Cohen, Maternal Exposures was permanently installed into the densely trafficked antenatal waiting area of Mowbray Maternity Hospital, in Cape Town. It was designed so that it related strongly to the function and uses of this hospital space, and interacted with the public in whom the work originated. The photographs and text derive from interviews I conducted at the same hospital over a period of six months; informal encounters with women who were pregnant, about to give birth or had just given birth. The text alternates between the three principal languages of the Western Cape (Afrikaans, English and Xhosa) and is conversational in tone. It threads through the installation and reflects a broad range of experience and opinion. At times provocative, poignant, humorous, brave, entertaining, sexy, sad and challenging. The text, and the red keywords are another layer, and intended to contradict the so-called ‘documentariness’ of the images, and raise questions about photographic meaning. Most particularly about the...
Family Affairs

Family Affairs

Family Affairs Family Affairs was an installation that comprised 3 distinct parts: Dear Mom –  a group of 3 found family photographs (each one imaging a mother and child), and a correspondence about them between me and my mother, Family Affairs  – a series of 16 photographs I shot of my own children, and  Shooting Back – a group of photographs they shot of me. Together, they become a conversation about family affairs and love affairs, love, loss and longing. Layered over with another conversation – about family photographs, their power and deception,  and how they mediate our experience of ourselves in the world.  Read More There’s a wonderful text that Richard Avedon wrote in the late 80’s, called Borrowed Dogs where he talks about his own family photograph albums. He says that his family took great care with their snapshots. They planned compositions. They dressed up. They posed in front of expensive cars, and homes that weren’t theirs. They borrowed dogs. He recounts how in one year of family photographs he counted eleven different dogs. His family never in fact owned a dog. He talks about the fact that in his family albums “all the photographs revealed a lie about who the Avedons really were, but a truth about who they really wanted to be”. This lie/truth paradox has always interested me when it comes to domestic snaps.   1 Installation View 2 Installation View 3 Looking Back #1 4 Installation View 4a Looking Back 5 Family Affairs # 1 5a Family Affairs # 3 6 Family Affairs # 10 7 Family Affairs # 11 8 Family Affairs # 12 8a Family Affairs...
I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle I’m the King of the Castle was produced for the exhibition Purity and Danger, curated by artist Penny Siopis in 1997. Artists and public personalities were invited to respond to what might be considered to be taboo in South Africa at that particularly fluid and optimistic moment in our recent past, just 3 years after democracy. We were asked to consider notions of ‘good or bad’, ‘right or wrong’, ‘decent and indecent’. In that context, this work focused on the universally problematic terrain of representation and child sexuality, and the equally taboo realm of the representation of the eroticism and intimacy inherent to the mother and child relationship. Read More In half of the grid of 40 images, my (then) 6 year old son was naked, which became controversial and the focus of public response to the work, and I’ve included it here because over 15 years later, people who meet me for the first time often say – “Oh, you’re that artist who takes pictures of her children without their clothes on! “. My children have grown up and exited this ‘frame’,  but looking back at this body of work now, they are still, to my mind, quite ‘achy’ images of a little boy performing himself for his mother, trying on different versions of masculinity and himself. The work disturbed some people and others loved, and were moved by it. In retrospect, I think the disturbance had quite deep social roots.  In her book, Family Frames, Marianne Hirsch has a chapter titled Maternal Exposures  (which title I later borrowed for a new...