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Stephanie Taylor

MOMMY: Sound Performance

Los Angeles | May 9 2015

The contested place of motherhood in contemporary art– what changes for the artist when the artist becomes a mother? For better and for worse, motherhood changes the artist. It’s an undeniable fact. The days of uninterrupted silence are over. Mommy is nothing if not an interruption, however lovely. Child and mother are bound together, and child breaks into the thoughts of the mother and into the thoughts of the artist, with an insidious reliability. The child racket transforms the mother into a racket mother and the child racket transforms the artist into a racket artist. The so-called interruption becomes actually its own song.

It is birth, which produces mommy. A passage from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, describes birth:

Unfolded out of the folds of woman, man comes unfolded […]
5 4 2 4 5 1 4 5 4 1 1 4 5 4 2

For the song, Mommy, 2014, I broke down the Whitman text into a syllable sequence: Is the dominant sound in this syllable A, E, I, O or U? Each of five vowels is assigned a number, and five-note melodies are made from the Whitman text. Each vowel-sound is applied to “Ma”, to create 5 versions, one for each syllable. They are: (ma + a =) ma, (ma + e =) mem, (ma + i =) mim, (ma + o =) mom, (ma + u =) mum. Each one is an iteration of the word ma. The Whitman text is then translated into “ma” sounds. In this way, the passage about birth, creates a new passage, consisting entirely of mommies. Any patterns of mim, mom, mum, are Whitman’s patterns, translated from his words to ma words. Every sound is filtered through ma.

The place of motherhood is questioned within the art world, and yet the art world would not exist without it. As Whitman writes in this translated passage:

A man is a great thing upon the earth,
And through Eternity–
But every jot of the greatness of man
is unfolded out of woman.