Written in Milk, performance, 2001
There were a number of live performances about women and motherhood, made using messy substances including milk or honey.
Written in Milk, durational performance, Dartington Hall, Devon (2001)
In addition to the obvious references to mother’s work and the long hours feeding and caring for children, this performance refers to ‘ecriture feminine’ (Helene Cixous) and writing the maternal body in order to enunciate it. It uses smell as well as vision to convey visibility for women’s lived experience of motherhood.
Description of work: the room is filled with the sweet, sweet smell of almond oil warming in milk. The milk is used to write on the white cotton that covers the huge span of the studio space (aprox 30×25 metres). Writing unconscious streams about my experiences of motherhood takes all day. Instead of completely disappearing, the milk soaks through leaving illegible fatty deposits on the cloth and the floor underneath. The room now smells disgusting and of stale milk.
Researching domestic histories of the period c. 1500 –1600, I used a combination of historical documents and fiction to create text which was written (dripped) in local honey on voile, a semi-transparent material, which was then made into window hangings for the Tudor Mansion House.
Once the cloth was hung the text could only be seen when the light shone through it, a metaphor for all the lost, semi-invisible histories of women’s domestic lives.
This process and installation relates to the body and the performance of writing with unusual materials.