Mapping the maternal:
art, ethics, and the anthropocene
Mapping the Maternal was also generously made possible through funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
May 11 — May 14, 2016 | Arts Based Research Studio
University of Alberta, Edmonton
The maternal is a “hot-button” issue in contemporary feminist art and theory, as evidenced by numerous recent conferences, exhibitions, and publications. Mapping the Maternal: Art, Ethics, and the Anthropocene steps into this potent arena of feminist discourse to ask what a maternal ethics might offer new thinking in the arts and humanities in the face of what has been, of late, referred to as the ‘Anthropocene’ — a term proposed by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2010 to name the geologic impact of humans on the planet.
One of the main premises of this colloquium is that we live in compromised times, within which the fantasy of an uncompromised self is isolationist, privileged, and dangerous. Global ecological and economic collapse are discussed with alarming regularity in the newspapers and news-feeds that surround us, and there are no clear answers for how to move forward unless, perhaps, we take seriously a politics and ethics of care. This event suggests that how we read the maternal not simply at the level of our cultural ecologies, our ecologies of labour production and exchange, and our affective ecologies, but in relation to our global ecological embeddedness is crucial.
The three days of the colloquium brought together an interdisciplinary and international roster of voices (artistic and academic) on feminist art and the maternal, including one of the most prominent figures in the field of feminist art, history, and theory as our keynote speaker, Griselda Pollock. In addition we launched the third New Maternalisms exhibition, New Maternalisms Redux, at the UofA's FAB Gallery, screened Irene Lusztig’s award winning the Motherhood Archives at the Garneau Theater (together with two short films: Gina Miller’s Family Tissues and the world-premiere of Sheena Wilson’s PetroMama), and held the entire colloquium within a Mothernism Installation produced for the event by the internationally acclaimed Danish artist Lise Haller Baggesen. Together these events, and the publications that are being developed from them represent an important contribution to the specialized world of maternal art and theory, by opening its debates up to climate change — one of the most pressing issues facing artists and scholars today.
Mapping the Maternal commissioned the internationally acclaimed Danish artist Lise Haller Baggesen to produce one of her Mothernism installations for the event. Mothernism served as "the mothership" for the conference, allowing our conversations to be not only about maternal art and ethics, but to have these conversations within an art installation.