Date of Submission
Film and Electronic Arts
It isn't physically possible for me to have a child. I'm gay. I don't want to have children. I don't think I will ever be able to financially support a child the way it deserves to be taken care of. My mother is dead. We have a history of mental illness in my family. I have bad genes. I don't think I would make a good mother; I'm too selfish. I'm the oldest living woman in my family. Who do I look to for advice?
Motherhood, pregnancy, and birth function together as major points of female experience, for some. Experiencing a connection to a life inside of you, be it fleeting or sustained can profoundly affect an individual in seemingly inexpressible ways. For some women senses and internal rhythms fall into place, creating bodily harmonies they never could have conceived of. Others find themselves at war, struggling to stay on an even keel, confronted constantly with new sensitivities and obstacles. Some even pass through a great deal of it relatively unscathed and unchanged, but most experience at one point or another all of these expressions of pregnancy. In the first trimester, the connection between mother and child seems almost hallucinatory, with the woman conjuring feelings for a fetus just starting to gestate, mentally forging a state of maternity out of the knowledge of this truth about her body.
The symptoms that tip a woman off to the truth about her body, the cessation of her period/an overly long period, bloating, changes in her breasts, fatigue, and nausea, are all symptoms that can also express themselves in hysterical pregnancies as well. Hysterical pregnancy is the manifestation in a woman of a belief that she is pregnant accompanied by the symptoms of pregnancy, but the woman does not have an actual fetus inside of her. Some very rare cases persist all the way through the nine months culminating in a hysterical birth. It is possible for these women to experience a first trimester the same way women who are actually pregnant do, even forming the early bond of maternity with their imaginary child.
My desire not to have children, does to preclude me from wanting to explore the female experiences of motherhood, pregnancy, and birth. The desire to explore maternity, searching for how it might change me, open me up to seeing in new ways, and finding a way to express the meaning I hoped to find within it, pushed me to seek access through the blurring of truth and delusion in the first trimester. I set out on a nine month performance of non-biological pregnancy hoping ti would help me shape my own connection with maternity. Following in the footsteps of hysterical pregnancy, I was pregnant for nine months. I lived healthily, worried about our future and stability, informed my family and friends, took care of myself, walked slowly and with great deliberation on icy days, experienced total 180 mood swings, and thought a lot about the future and the past. At the same time, I couldn't pee positive, didn't look pregnant without a false belly on to anyone but myself, kept getting my period erratically, didn't experience quickening until much later than it should have come, lost confidence in myself, and struggled with the dichotomy I experienced between my body and my mind.
I found myself drawn to the friction between analog and digital video technologies over the nine months. Something in the frenetic glitches I was making within unstable analog to digital conversions reminded me of how my pregnancy was being shaped by the clash of my mental and physical states. I amassed children's videos and instructional pregnancy VHS ranging from pregnancy massage to preparing your car safely for your upcoming newborn, along with home movies of my childhood and my mother's pregnancy with my sister, while shooting my own home videos as well, with the help of my friends.
My video installation, Maternity, springs from and serves as a reconstitution of the nine month performance, the play and experimentation with creating glitches through degradation and manipulation between analog and digital systems, and the amassing of media and images that were part of the conception of maternity I was forging in myself.
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Taylor, Sarah Timberlake, "Maternity" (2011). Senior Projects Spring 2011. 262.