April 25, 2022

Work in Progress Portfolio PHO720

STATEMENT OF INTENT

Rupture & Repair aims to challenge the conventional ideals, stereotypes and presentations of early parenthood.

By showing a more realistic presentation of early family life and shining a light on the unseen emotional labour that parents undertake, I hope to celebrate the foundations that are built in times of struggle, when it is most easy to feel a sense of not living up to idealised standards.

The images reflect on times when parents are stretched further than they thought possible, when they withstand more than they thought they could and yet still in all their messy human-ness, love more than they ever expected. It is in these moments that bonds are made, relationships are built and then the foundations of what we think of as family are created. When in the hardest moments, against all odds, we choose to love.

I feel that these moments, in all their unglamorous messiness, are the ones that should make it into our family albums and our most cherished memories. It is these moments that are what make a family and I feel that they should be celebrated and remembered with as much if not more fondness than the picture-perfect presentations we usually record.

I like to imagine how different parenthood would feel if we celebrated all the very normal difficult times as milestones in the building of our family’s future. And how parenthood would be if we saw the repairing of bonds after a period of conflict or struggle with the same accomplishment as overcoming difficulties when training for a long-distance race or working through a challenging work project.

Repairs that follow ruptures build stronger bonds and create relationships where both parties feel a sense of trust when things fall apart. Without these periods of struggle, families would not understand the strength of the bonds that hold them together in times of adversity.

The use of stitching to repair the ruptures in the prints represents threads being woven through time, into the fabric of our being, a weaving of the past into the present, of what came before being woven into what we have become.

From my research into Female art and Social history, I see female lineage as a conduit for handing down skills and knowledge, whilst at the same time holding the potential for changing stereotyped narratives for future generations. It is my intention to challenge the often unthought-of ways in which we perpetuate stereotypes and ways of being and provide an alternative way of viewing and valuing the roles often thought of as feminine in society.

CRITICAL REVIEW OF PRACTICE

“To photograph is to confer importance”

(Sontag, 1977: 28)

In the majority of photographs which document the early years of family life and parenthood, the importance that is inferred is the clean, happy, smiling faces of immaculately presented and composed family members. In my WIP I seek to challenge this presentation as being the most important recording of early family life. I believe that the difficult and often unseen and undervalued emotional caring work of parents in the early years should be recognised, recorded and celebrated as the foundations on which
family life is built.


I’m not alone in my thinking, developmental psychologist, Winnicott called for a recognition of “the immense contribution to the individual and to society that the ordinary good mother makes” (cited in Popova 2016).


Through the use of archival images which document times of emotional struggle and strain in early parenthood, I physically damage and rupture prints, later mending them with embroidery thread to represent the rupture and repair which happens as an integral part of the parent-child relationship (Fig 1).


“ruptures are inevitable breaks in the nurturing connection with the child. What is important is not that ruptures never occur, but that ruptures are repaired. If they are not dealt with, deepening problems in the relationship between the child and caregiver can affect the child’s sense of self”

(Siegel cited in Ann 2019)

Winnicott believed these ruptures were required on a regular basis so that the child learns to live in an imperfect world (1973).

Evolution of Practice

My practice in this module has been based on lots of exploration and experimentation and as a result, my work has led me through different iterations of ideas and concepts. My original intent for this module focused on exploring identity and how we show, hide and manipulate aspects of ourselves depending on the situation and people we are with. This led to a huge amount of experimental work using a variety of methods and techniques (Fig 2, 3 & 4).


My work then evolved to explore digital and online identity (Figs 5 & 6) followed by consideration of how our identities are formed by old memories of ourselves (Fig 7). But the finished work didn’t feel cohesive.


It was in a portfolio review, that I realised my work this module was speaking of too many different things, all connected, but far too disparate to create a concise body of work.

What occurred to me when
reviewing my work, was how I
kept circling back to the way
our identities shift and change
based on individual
relationships. How the identity
I have with one person is
different to the identity I take
on when in a different
relational role.

Many of these shifting
identities are in some part
informed by the stereotypes
we internalise from society. I
frequently conform to the stereotype of what it is to be a
good mother (Fig 8), wife,
daughter, student etc.

“The self only comes into being in relationship and through constant encounters with representations around us. In taking up our positions in the family and in society our multilayered self is always shifting. Identity is never static, nor unified in one essential self.”

(Solomon. 1995:10)


It was at this point I realised my work had come full circle, reflecting on stereotypes/norms and how they shape us and how we both contribute to their lifecycle by reenacting and rephotographing them and how by disturbing them we can offer up a different and alternative reality.

Archival Vernacular Images – Challenging Norms

In previous modules, I have used an editorial aesthetic in my work to subvert the medium through which most women receive their messages about female stereotypes and expectations. Much in the way Martha Rosler, Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman used the trends of popular visual culture as a vehicle for their subversive work.

For this module, I started out with a similar aesthetic and it worked well for my earlier portraits where I was exploring the more superficial and temporary adjustments we make to our identity when presenting ourselves in different situations.

However, as my intent became more defined, I started to consider whether using more unpolished vernacular photography might be a better means of communication. Reflecting on the work of Jo Spence [Fig 14], I felt that offering an alternative aesthetic created a much stronger impact than simply mimicking the aesthetics of what we already see too much of.

I selected images from my archive that showed moments immediately after a period of rupture; images that documented a time of distress or damage, either internally or relationally. I was drawn to images where the lighting felt moody, usually as a result of a middle of the night or pre-dawn period of struggle.

Although I was clear on my intent, there was a part of me that felt challenged to share images where I didn’t feel that I was at my most presentable. These were private moments that weren’t at all glamorous.

I was reminded of comments made in respect of Richard Billingham’s Ray’s A Laugh series (Fig 9).

“Not only is the situation unseemly and somewhat repulsive, as the mother hardly conforms to the pattern according to which she has been arranged”

(Orskou, 2003)

Then I reminded myself of Hatherley’s response, …‘it is an image of love for his mother, Orskou finds it repulsive because it does not conform to her notion of correct feminine motherhood. (Hatherley 2017: 141) and it is this notion of there being a visually “correct” version of motherhood that I wish to challenge.


In Post-Partum Document, Kelly documented the early years of her child’s life, collecting everything from soiled nappies to recording the phonetics of early speech (Fig 11 & 12).

The concept behind her work was to show the process of becoming a mother. She documented their relationship and the mundanity of everyday life. Her work referenced the psychoanalytic theory of child development and subverted the artistic tradition of sentimentalising the mother-child relationship, instead, showing its complexity.


“the work goes beyond the development of the child to examine the reciprocal process wherein both child and mother undergo psychological changes against the background of their socio-political context”

(Goodwin, 2018)


Through this documentation of all the mundane and less glamorised aspects of parenthood, Kelly gave form to all the unnoticed work that goes into raising a family. In a similar way, I hope to show the realness of parenthood, reflecting on the moments when we are pushed to our psychological limits.

One thing Kelly spoke of in respect of this work is how there were three interlocking aspects to it; conceptual art, feminism and motherhood and how very rarely a viewer understood all three (2021). This made me consider the accessibility of art and whether the use of too complex a concept or theory may render the work inaccessible to the intended or potentially wider audience.


Karklin (Fig 13) took on one of the biggest social taboos around motherhood in her work, that of regret. I felt fully immersed in this set of 7 books which looked at anger, fear, isolation, exhaustion, guilt, resignation and acceptance.

I felt that Karklin achieved what Barthes (1982) would describe as punctum. However, on reflection, I feel that the concept and the written accounts of these women’s lives are what resulted in the series being so successful in its intent, the images on their own weren’t able to fully tell the story.

The images didn’t detract from the work but the work overall definitely needed both text and imagery to achieve its intent. The text also made the images more relatable and accessible, overcoming some of the barriers to which Kelly spoke. This has led me to consider how I could incorporate text into future work.

The Family Album

The purpose of the family album is

“…integrally tied to the ideology of the modern family.”

(Hirsch, 1997:7)


Spence and Martin (1988) spoke about the significance and potential use of family albums. Specifically when “… documenting that which is absent or customarily ignored.” They argued that “If we train ourselves to ‘see’ differently, visual markers of various rites of passage which are socially tabooed within the family album can be made.” And “By recording such events ourselves… a new form of social autobiographical documentation can be put together”

It is the reading of ‘Putting
Myself In The Picture’ (Spence
1986) that has informed much of
my practice and driven my
desire to show the unseen and
to challenge what we do see. In
this book, Spence speaks of her
exhibition Beyond the Family
Album (Fig 14), and of how she
“began to reverse the process of
the way I had been constructed
as a woman by deconstructing
myself visually in an attempt to
identity the process by which I
had been ‘put together’. Through
this I was able to understand
what my photographs didn’t
show…. Locked as I had been in
a private struggle to come to
terms with my own ‘femininity’
and with the fragmented roleplaying this entails” (1986:83)

In Women and Work (1975), and Who’s Left Holding the Baby (1978) ‘Spence sought to render visible what has previously been unacknowledged and unappreciated”, thereby (quoting Spence) “validating women’s experience and demonstrating their unrecognised contribution to the economy.” (Hatherley, 2019)


It is this aspect of Spence’s work that I find most compelling and which I’d most like to incorporate into my own WIP. I would like to make visible that which is not seen in early parenthood and to highlight the emotional work that is often undertaken by women so that it can be more recognised and valued.


“The very act of photographing something makes it special and indeed its significance and our understanding of it can change dramatically once it is turned into a subject”

(Bright, 2011:107)

By presenting photographs of the more difficult times in early parenthood, I hope to highlight the significance of those moments in the creation of what we celebrate as family. By presenting these images in the format of a traditional family album it infers their importance as moments to be recorded and indicates my intention that they become more commonly accepted and recognised moments of family histories.

Stitching: Female Art & Social History

“embroidery has been the means of educating women into the feminine …it has also provided a weapon of resistance to the constraints of femininity.”

Parker (2010: ix)

Fairbrother (2019) uses both stitching (Fig 15) and tools to puncture prints (Fig 16) as a way to express her creative intent. She said “I am tethered by an invisible thread which binds me to my own story. This is why I sew into my photographs, to feel attached to something I still yearn for.” This idea of being attached and tethered by threads really resonated with me, both in terms of being tethered to my daughter and also to the lineage of the women who came before me.

Initially, I tried stitching into colour prints [Fig 17] but the ever-changing light temperature and the low quality of my camera phone created jarring contrasts from image to image which distracted the eye from the focus of the work.

In Fairbrother’s embroidered photographs she uses images with a colour palette that compliments the thread colours. In the image above (Fig 15) the colour palette is limited to the blue background and then hues similar to skin tones (pinks and oranges). I feel this adds to the success of the image and it is the reason why my earlier experimentation with colour images didn’t work as well.

As I had no control over the colours already present in the archival images (and for me, the mood and moment were more significant in the selection of images than the colour palette), converting my images to black and white [Fig 18] produced significantly better results. This had the added benefit of allowing the stitching to be a more dominant aspect of the work, as the colours of the threads didn’t have to visually compete with the messy backgrounds in the photographs.


I made holes in prints, which varied in their method, some clean-cut and violently hammed, others more gently torn. They are a metaphor for the moments of rupture in the parent-child relationship as well as the voids in my own sense of self as I navigated the difficulties of matrescence. They are all acts that can not be undone. Once altered, even when painstakingly repaired, the marks will forever disrupt the fibres of the print. By damaging the prints, I feel the viewer is drawn to the voids, which leads to questions of what created them.

Taking the holes and tears in these vernacular images of the past I set about mending and repairing them (Fig 19). I also asked women who have supported me, if they would help me with the stitching work, to represent the collective mending and support women provide to each other, as well as the way in which new relationships can help heal old parts of us.

The use of needlework symbolises the repair of what was emotionally/psychologically ruptured, it is also a reference to the history of mending work done by women, passed on through the generations, as well as referencing the history of women in art. The threads not only repair the damage, they also bring colour to an image that was void of it. They take something seemingly broken and create something new.

Chicago used stitching in her 1979 installation, The Dinner Party (Fig 20). The large-scale installation included 39 place settings that each celebrated a woman from history. The women’s names were embroidered on a table runner and their stories told through traditionally female accomplishments such as weaving, sewing and china painting. This work recognised many great women who are often omitted from the history books in favour of male alternatives.

Nochlin (1971) highlighted the omission of female artists by art historians in her essay ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ whilst also acknowledging the lack of access women had to more formal types of art education. It was this restricted access to “higher” art forms that resulted in women using the art forms they did have access to, to create works of art.

Artists such as Chicago who used “female art forms” to create subversive art ultimately led to a shift/change in the narrative of women’s art history and to the changes and freedoms we have today, both politically, socially and artistically.

It feels relevant that this history is acknowledged and reflected in my own work as I hope to contribute to changing the narratives around motherhood, one of the few remaining aspects of female stereotypes and norms, that remain mostly unchallenged and often undervalued.

Conclusion

Using a wide range of visual and theoretical research to inform my practice I have developed a body of work which references historic and contemporary artistic practices. My wider practice has drawn on the concepts of photographic looking and photographic manipulation and it is through practical experimentation in these areas and various iterations of work, alongside critical reflection that I have developed a stronger sense of what it was that I wanted to communicate and thus identified a more refined scope for this project.

SUBMITTED PDF FILES

My submitted WIPP and Critical Review of Practice for the module.

Figures

Figure 1. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Rupture & Repair.
Figure 2. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Masking | What we choose to reveal.
Figure 3. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Adding Dimensions to Surface Impressions | Manipulated
Identity & Perspectives.
Figure 4. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Iterations and lost parts.
Figure 5. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Photo Manipulations [moving image screen captures]
Figure 6. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Manipulation of Identities (Digital)
Figure 7. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Identity of Past Selves (Hazy Rose Tinted Memories from
the Family Album)
Figure 8. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Iterations and lost parts – Motherhood.
Figure 9. Richard BILLINGHAM. 2995. Untitled. Ray’s A Laugh Series. Available at: https://
onlineonly.christies.com/s/handpicked-100-works-selected-saatchi-gallery/richardbillingham-b-1970-49/85724. [Accessed 20 April 2022]
Figure 10. Adele ANNETT. 2022. Rupture and Repair.
Figure 11. Mary KELLY. 1974. Post-Partum Document: Documentation I. Analysed Fecal
Stains and Feeding Charts. Available at: https://www.marykellyartist.com/post-partumdocument-1973-79 [Accessed 20 April 2022]
Figure 12. Mary KELLY. 1973-79. Post Partum Documentation. Details. Diaper linings,
plastic sheeting, paper,ink Available at: https://www.marykellyartist.com/post-partumdocument-1973-79 [Accessed on 20 April 2022]
Figure 13. Diana KARKLIN. 2022. Undo Motherhood. Available at: https://
www.schiltpublishing.com/shop/books/new-releases/undo-motherhood/ [Accessed on 23
March 2020]
Figure 14. Jo SPENCE. 1979. Beyond The Family Album. Putting Myself in the Picture.
London: Camden Press Ltd
Figure 15. Jessa FAIRBROTHER. 2018-2019. Constellations and Coordinates. Available
at:http://jessafairbrother.com/projects/constellations/ [Accessed on 20 April 2022]
Figure 16. Jessa FAIRBROTHER. 2017. Dragonflies. Available at: http://
jessafairbrother.com/projects/dragonflies/ [Accessed on 20 April 2022]
Figure 17: Stitched coloured photograph. March 2022. Photograph by the Author.
Figure 18: Stitched Black and White photograph. April 2022. Photograph by the Author.
Figure 19. Adele ANNETT. 2020. Rupture and Repair.
Figure 20. Judy CHICAGO. 1979. The Dinner Party. Available at: https://
www.textileartist.org/caren-garfen-art-that-inspires/judy-chicago-the-dinner-party/
[Accessed on 20 April 2022]

References

ANN, Cheryl. 2019. The Key To Good Enough Parenting – Repair The Rupture.
Momkindmon. Available at : https://www.mindkindmom.com/the-key-to-good-enoughparenting-repair-the-rupture/ [accessed 20 April 2022]
BRIGHT, Susan. 2011. Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson
BARTHES, Roland. 1982. Camera Lucida. London: Jonathan Cape
FAIRBROTHER, Jessa. 2019. ‘Underwater’ Jessa Fairbrother Blog [online] Feb 20.
Available at: https://jessafairbrother.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/underwater/ [accessed 13
Mar 2022]
GOODWIN, Arthur. 2018. Post-Partum Document. Documentation III: Analysed Markings
And Diary Perspective Schema (Experimentum Mentis III: Weaning from the Dyad)
Summary. Tate November [online]. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kellypost-partum-document-documentation-iii-analysed-markings-and-diary-perspective-t03925
[Accessed 20 April 2022]
HATHERLEY, Frances. 2017. A working-class Anti-Pygmalion aesthetics of the female
grotesque. Available at https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/23204/ [accessed on 20 April 2022]
HATHERLEY, Frances. 2019. ‘The Labour of Class Discourse.’ Parse Journal, 9 Spring.
Available at https://parsejournal.com/article/the-labour-of-class-discourse-jo-spence-andthe-unmentionableness-of-class/ [Accessed 20 April 2022]
HIRSCH, Marianne. 1997. Family Frames photography narrative and postmemory.
London: Harvard University Press
KELLY, Mary and AVISHAI, Tamar [host]. 2021. The Lonely Palette Podcast : Ep. 51 Mary
Kelly’s Post-Partum Document (1973-79). Available at: http://www.thelonelypalette.com/
episodes/2021/2/7/episode-51-mary-kellys-post-partum-document-1976 [accessed on 20
April 2022]
21
NOCHLIN, Linda. 1971. Why have there been no great women artists? Available at:
https://www.academia.edu/25134973/
WHY_HAVE_THERE_BEEN_NO_GREAT_WOMEN_ARTISTS [accessed on 02 March
2022]
ORSKOU, Gitte. 2003 Home Sweet Home. Aarhus: Aarhus Kunstmuseum
PARKER, Rozika. 2010. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the
Feminine. 4th edition, (London: I.B. Tauris), ix.
POPOVA, Maria. 2016. ‘Pioneering Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott on the Mother’s
Contribution to Society’ the marginalian. Available at https://www.themarginalian.org/
2016/05/08/winnicott-mothers-contribution-to-society/. [accessed 20 April 2022]
SOLOMON, Joan. 1995. What can woman do with a camera? London: Scarlett Press
SONTAG, Susan. 1977. On Photography. London: Penguin
SPENCE, Jo and MARTIN, Rosie. 1988. ‘Photo-therapy: Psychic Realism as a Healing
Art?’ Ten-8 Available at: https://www.academia.edu/1818884/
Phototherapy_Psychic_Realism_as_Healing_Art p10 [Accessed on 20 April 2022]
SPENCE, Jo. 1986. Putting Myself in the Picture. London: Camden Press Ltd
WINNICOTT, Donald. 1973. The Child, the Family, and the Outside World London:
Penguin Books

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