Transcendental housework

Chambers, Paula ORCID logoORCID: (2016) Transcendental housework. JourMS: The Journal of Mother Studies, 1.


My mother was not a feminist, yet growing up in 1970s suburban north London I was witness to, and complicit in, my mother’s active refusal to conform to the expectations of a good housewife. Cleaning, tidying, dusting, washing up, were all low on the list of my mother’s priorities, instead she played tennis, she grew vegetables, she went out dancing; my sister and I were left to our own devices. As a feminist artist and a mother, I have adopted my mother’s domestic dissent, integrating it as philosophy into the processes and outcomes of my art making practice. I do not have a studio but make art in my kitchen; I rarely clean or tidy up, but instead utilize my domestic space and the objects that inhabit it, as a temporalized site of domestic resistance. This paper is a brief representation of how I have materialized my ongoing relationship with my mother. The sculptural objects that I discuss here can be read as an iconography of the domestic sphere; in particular, the ambivalent understanding I had as a child of my mother in her role as a mother. I re-enact the domestic unease of my childhood, projecting maternal dissent on to the haunted objects that formed my sense of self in the world. I subvert meaning and ideologies through affective interrogation of subservient domestic objects; coffee tables, footstools, and ornaments.

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