Mum Q's/Diaristic Mirrors
Above: documentation of MumQ's intervention (flyposting) on Mother Day, 2017. Credit: Sophie Chapman + Kerri Jefferis.
Mum Q's/Diaristic mirrors is an ongoing project that begun in 2017 whilst Artists in Residence with Gabrielle and Zarina on The White Pube.
It is a messy, disparate, auto-ethnographic archive offering snapshots of the micro, the tender and intimate spaces of changing family relationships of different shapes and sizes.
MumQ's asks for your collective thoughts, musings, contributions, questions. Specifically mum questions. Questions addressed to the person who holds this space for you. Questions to a mother figure, a mum never known or questions to a mum near.
Questions that as you get older maybe get harder to ask or questions that might fill the gaps in your knowledge of the many multitudes this person holds. Questions that maybe your muscle memory has filled or, that when you really think about you don’t remember, you don’t really know.
Questions about the before, the after, the moment. Questions you don’t know how to ask.
These questions will be collected anonymously and shared with strangers.
MumQ's/Diaristic Mirrors has been aired on three occasions. Flyposted in South London, shared during Mutters, New Victoria Gardens Glasgow and was recently published as a limited edition artist book: Private Insurrections to Loosen Public Ground. This pocket sized companion contains a small essay and 60+ anonymous contributions to the project. It is available here on Independents United, Yellow Back Books and is available to read at The Women's Library in Glasgow.
Below: documentation of Private Insurrections to Loosen Public Ground, published August, 2018. Credit: Sophie Chapman + Kerri Jefferis.
Mum q reflections
If we hear and come to know our own stories only from the narrations of others. What sort of ethical consequences follow, asks Adriana Cavarero. When we are the protagonists, but not the authors of our own life narratives?
Acknowledging and recognising the unique and irreplaceable status of the "I,” emphasizing singularity. Regardless of the ‘content’ of one’s life story, one will, for all that, have a story to begin with.
“If you pay attention to the day there will be no difference between you and the day and the day will pay attention to you” Chris Kraus. Presence is never far away from a demand for recognition, do you see me?
The act of re-writing is a kind of embodiment. Your body like a transmitter for another’s story. From one to another. Their experience may be different to yours and that will have an affect. Maybe recognition, maybe acknowledgement, maybe validation, maybe other things. But if its close. It may have another effect. It may be life affirming.
In both cases, what if this story was not written. What are the consequences if people are only the protagonists not the authors of our own lives, our own stories?
There is something particular about shared auto-ethnography. The act is autonomous in its value recognition and creation. It exists as a gesture for others and for the self. It cuts a path, signposts, says I am here (despite) and I wont ignore or be defined by the ‘despite’. I will openly share it so that others do not feel alone.
There are generational shifts in the questions. Huge, micro shifts where comfort can be found. But also evidence of deeply socialised tendencies; guilt of self-actualisation, fear of failure, anxiety about families in many shapes and whether or when things stop (particularly after kids). There is a real uncertainty about fulfillment, whether or not mums got/have what they wanted or whether they feel trapped, if they are happy. And there are so many unknowns about these figures in our loves, who in many cases brought us into the world, held our hands and shaped our understanding of it.
Diaristic mirrors could be understood as punctuation, stoppages, tender - hooks, passages that provoke introspection. The nature of these take the form of something personal, shared. In some cases made public. These often have unconscious, unseen, unrecognisable affects. They can be affirming, revealing, exposing or painful.
Both anonymity and poetry give space for uncertainty. If we take the time. And neither of these feed with teh pace or irreverence of social media’s endless scroll. Diaristic mirrors are not filtered, framed or self-promotional. They are deeply hopeful, fearful, raw, honest accounts of how things were, felt, happened. They come from a different desire, from those compelled to break the façade, to rupture the fissure, to tell another story. Not just the aesthetic, the acceptable, the sanctioned, the pretty picture or the novel frame. They are not always intended for anyone else but the writer.
These narratives are the most important. They speak of social time and lived experience. They reveal our imperfections, our quiet desires, intuitive needs, hopes and expectations, our hussle, survival, introspective and extroverted care and our corrupted system. Our humanity and our socialised behaviours. In their smallness they hold the bigness.
They speak of love and violence, choice and greed, lived wisdom and regret, suspicion, the erotic, anger and uninhibited joy. Life and Force.
Diaries traverse a threshold yet hover between the interior and exterior. Not entirely public, but not entirely private. Like a prayer or thought that slips out loud. There’s something about articulating without intention. Without any place to go, but there. This makes it a unique mode of expression. And deeply disruptive in a place where things must be measured, accounted for and endlessly productive.
But this mode cannot help being productive, in a sort of against way. Inhibited externalising is a process of gaining consciousness, coming to voice. Quietly. To begin with. Identifying patterns, ideas, workings out. From an intuitive voice. And usually as a result of a feeling or feeling a certain way/thing first and wanting signification or rationalisation. Thought does not always produce this though. At times it adds more complexity.
Pay attention to the present and the present will take care of you. Pay attention to diaristic mirrors. These are where we learn about others and ourselves. Not I was here's, but I am here's. Our intimate stories are our history, not the stuff written by scholars and so called history men.
Some things that influenced this or to look up if this is interesting Adriana Cavarero’s Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood, Charlotte Cooper’s thesis, Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic and the film about her Berlin Years, the social model of disability, Chris Kraus’s Video Green, Jan Etienne’s Learning in Womanist Ways and the reprint of Consciousness Raising Guidelines by Half Letter Press.