One of the many things I noticed when I became pregnant was how accessible I became to people. Strangers would make remarks about my “condition”, some would even touch my belly. Anyone and everyone felt entitled to give me advice and make predictions. While I can appreciate the general concern about children that these actions may represent, I began to feel a great deal of anxiety about the loss of autonomy and privacy I experienced along with my entrance into the state of maternity.
Why should I feel that the recognition of my needs and rights was lost by becoming a mother? Was my identity
necessarily subsumed by that of my child? The delight and joy I felt about becoming a mother was tempered by the high degree of ambivalence I felt about the role assigned to me as a “mother”.
The installation With Child was developed in relation to an exhibition about embodiment at the Glebow Museum (Calgary) in 1991. This work speaks about the simultaneous identification with and estrangement from the conditions of maternity, which I experienced while I was pregnant, and continue to experience today.
This work was also about the problem of representing the fetus as if it were an autonomous individual, rather than as something which is part of its mother’s body, and entirely dependent upon her for its growth and development.
Finally, this work acknowledged my identity as my mother’s child. An identity which is troubled by a desire to separate myself from her, and the overwhelming sense of loss that results from that separation.