Maribyrnong City Council commissioned me to direct four short films and shoot a series of portraits to reflect the rich lives of women in the municipality. For the portraits I wanted to present the women as bold and empowered. I shot very wide and full body to allow the surroundings to tell a bit of a story about the individual and the local area. In the photographs the women are alone in the space, but interestingly, they own it. The films tell the stories of 3 women under the loose themes of Live, Work Create and Play. The aim was to give the women the opportunity to share a small part of their life with us. To allow them to tell their story, in their way. Too often women's stories are sold to us by men. It is vital that we tell our story, our way, for ourselves.
Mother & Child (2017)
It is the most fetishised human relationship: mother and child. From Mary and Jesus to Madonna and Lourdes, and everything in between. But what happens when visual imagery subverts the common narrative? What happens when a mother isn’t gazing into her baby’s eyes? What happens when the screen shows breasts being used as dispensers of food? What happens when a mother and her baby occupy a double bed together? This work duly comments on the medium of cinema itself and the stories it peddles, which serve to reinforce patriarchal hegemony.
The Wall Of Shamed (2017)
The Wall Of Shamed is a participatory art installation in which women and girls are invited to share their experiences of being shamed.
Experiences can be shared physically on the wall, using marker pens provided, or online using the hash tag #wallofshamed.
If you would like your experience to remain private, just tell me about it anonymously via the online form.
The wall was first shown at the Victorian College of the Arts Masters Graduate Exhibition in 2017 and will travel abroad over the coming months.
Body shaming. Fat shaming. Slut shaming. Period shaming. Mother shaming. Food shaming. Gender shaming. Victim shaming. The list goes on … Did someone say something to you that hurt you? Did you receive a ‘look’ that made you feel less than? Have you been degraded or shamed simply for being female? Were you teased because of what you look like, or something you said? Did someone physically or mentally abuse you?
Please feel welcome to share your stories, your pain, your suffering. You may use illustrations or words to express yourself on this wall. It is yours.
To join the movement on social media head to the Instagram feed. Let’s talk about shame. And, more importantly, let’s put a stop to it.
A Torture Treatment (2017)
7 Halos of Post Natal Depression (2017)
Of Woman Born (2017)
Birth Sheets (2016)
The indexical trace of childbirth in which mother is painter and blood is the palette. The canvas is a KylieSheet™- the eponymous fabric square found in hospital labor wards – stained with blood, amniotic fluid and excrement. A Perspex frame encases the soiled material like a petri-dish, protecting the viewer.
Birth. We’ve all experienced it, and yet, owing to infantile amnesia; we cannot remember it. For most of us our concept of birth is derived from cinema or the reminiscences of our parents.
Hospital and television are careful to protect us from the messy nature of childbirth - clinical cloths clean up bloody remains, The Male Gaze hovers over a blue-gowned woman as she screams. It is this glaring omission of the gore of childbirth that serves to perpetuate one of the many myths of motherhood.
Birth Sheets evaluates the phenomenon of childbirth to a new position. By redacting the female form the trace becomes the object of fetishisation, not the woman herself. Painting, the hero of the art-world, is reconfigured to elevate woman, not denigrate.
Dervesh Sanger 13th October 2016
Carly Baker 5th September 2016
Rebecca Heinnen 16th October 2016
Human Milk Bar (2016)
I performed Human Milk Bar in 2016. The setting was a tasting station - a bar - set with small tasting cups and a glass jug of human breast milk. On the wall hung a ‘certificate’ confirming the safety of the substance being offered and a TV screen. I invited the group of 23 audience members/participants to gather around the bar and explained that I would be offering them human milk to sample. However, before sampling the milk they were required to watch a short informational video. Dutifully, they watched (and giggled). Essentially a parody, but not without factual information, the video echoed an inflight safety demonstration. I was the presenter; hair tied back in a bun and dressed in a business style shirt. The video explained,
… Interestingly, human milk is considered both a biohazard and food, depending on the circumstances it is found. When breast milk is suckled by an infant from its mother, it’s deemed to be a food. However, a bottle of expressed milk in, say, a hospital is considered a biohazard. In order to offer human milk to you today, and for the milk to be given the status of food, the milk has been screened, pasteurized and tested, and is being offered by Mothers Milk Bank – a donor human milk agency …
After the video I asked the group if they had any questions and if anybody had tasted human milk as an adult. I also provided some facts about human milk and its benefits and information about the history of adult consumption of human milk. It was a friendly conversation, but the intention was to ‘sell’ the product. Additionally, in my role as ‘tasting consultant’, I was a conduit sanctioning the safety of the substance on offer. After the discussion, the group was invited to taste a sample. 90% of the people took the sample and stood around sipping from their little paper cups, chatting, as people might do at a wine tasting, discussing the flavour and asking questions.
The work had the aim of generating conversation about detachment from the human and the implications of bureaucratic control and power. As a lactating woman I could have just as easily offered milk fresh from my breast. Even Scientific Information Officer, Liz McGuire at the Australian Breastfeeding Association, attested in an email that the level of risk to participants consuming unpasteurised milk from me was minuscule,
…While there is likely to be little risk involved in drinking a small amount of someone else’s breast milk on a single occasion, I imagine the college’s insurers might regard it as an unnecessary risk…
However, because human milk is considered a biohazard in a university I had to offer milk from a certified food agency.
Human Milk Bar is an exploration of the human condition in today’s society. I wanted to highlight the absurdities of corporate veneer and the promotional tactics used by big business, which tend to operate with a parallel motive that plays on our fears and our desires simultaneously. The work completely distances itself from all signs of the maternal, by literally ignoring the leaky tit whence it came.
The setting is purposely clinical; the video presenter is intentionally fake, verging on robotic, inhuman in fact. She delivers factual information about the substance in ‘news-presenter-like’ tone confirming its safety: validating it. The tasting consultant engages the participants in a similar way: informative and friendly, but distant in the way typified by sales people or employees – the obedient cogs of the bureaucratic machine that our society values. It seems absurd, but the truth is the offering would not be possible in its absence. It begs the question, would you drink human milk without the government’s ‘stamp of approval’? Do you trust corporations or do you trust people?
I am interested in highlighting how we have become strangers to ourselves, disconnected from our nature and completely at the behest of the government and the corporate structures that control our existence. We are told that we are free, but free from what? Western oppression operates in a subtle way and uses charisma and surface, fear and facts, to ensure subordination of its citizens.
Everything one wishes to do in today’s society requires a form to be filled out, a certificate, a test, a document, a stamp. We are told not to trust, but to fear. Our society regulates and polices everything we do; even the food created by our human selves is not safe. It is a biohazard. We are a biohazard.