Contemplation Time: A Document of Maternity Leave
Sid, my third baby, came in August 2007. My maternity leave – supposedly my time “off” work – lasted from 5 July 2007 to 27 April 2008.
Since he was a few days old Sid and I go for weekly walks to a nearby park. I push him in his pram. Sometimes I carry him in one of those impractical but trendy slings. We sit on a special chosen park bench. On the way to the bench I think about the daily routines mothers are expected to maintain. I think about parents who only want what’s best for their kids. I think about the impossible expectations placed on mothers. I feel trapped. I feel out of the game. I feel like an outsider. It feels good. In ‘Contemplation Time’, I started keeping a diary about these walks to a nearby park and to the same bench, taking photographs and performing (or getting baby Sid to perform) for the camera. I decided to chart, mark and document this fragile time.
This is the artistic process of me getting on with my life as a mother and as an artist. Going to the bench provided me with a reason to get out of the house. Getting to the bench felt like an obligation and a pleasure. This was my time with Sid without explicit mothering. This was the formalizing and charting of our existence together during these few months. During my maternity leave from 5 July 2007 to 27 April 2008, we visit our park bench thirty-two times.
Through this project am interested to draw attention to some of the small acts in life, ritual-like repetitious actions, which form the backbone of my current art making processes. Writing my journal, walking in the park, taking photographs and sitting on the bench allowed for a different kind of time as well as a form, both of which are in juxtaposition with the daily messiness of mothering labour. The everyday got ordered and transformed first into something repetitive and then something performative.
In the tradition of a critical feminist performance practice, my aim is to de-authorise a private/public binary as well as acknowledge the importance of the lived experience and the everyday labour of mothering within an art context. From Mary Kelly’s Post Partum Document (1973-79), as a deeply provocative intervention into the maternal and its representations in/through arts practice to Bobby Baker’s performance Drawing on a Mother’s Experience (1988) which narrates her experience of having children, women artists have often used their lived experience in order to produce their art. ‘Contemplation Time’ is an attempt to translate the daily maternal labour during one maternity leave into a feminist critical arts practice of everyday life.