Mapping Maternity

12-hour durational performance devised and performed by Kerstin Bueschges, Jan Farrar and Sandra Flores

performed as inaugural event for the research unit R.I.B. (Representation, Identity, Body) in 2008

performed in the context of International Women’s Day celebrations 2010 as 6-hour durational piece

Three women, equipped with cakes, tea, microphones, prams, toys, nappies, talcum powder, birth plans, Nina Simone’s My Babe Just Cares For Me and endless lists of things to do, things to avoid, recipes to follow and questions to ask, embark on a 12-hour long journey of mapping. You are invited to follow their travels, observe their struggles, and listen to their confessions on this laborious day.


The audience comes in and they see ten 7-months pregnant women sitting in an orderly fashion on chairs in the space. They are all wearing long white dressing gowns. Each woman is visibly reading a baby-name book. There is whale music in the background. When the audience has settled down, the music changes. Shania Twain’s Man I feel like a woman is played very loudly.  […] The women lean forward in a provocative fashion and stand up in unison. The audience can see that they are all trying to do this as elegantly and sexy as possible, but the bump is obviously making this rather difficult. […] The women walk to the left of their chairs, hand on the back. On we only wanna dance we’re gonna let our hair hang down the women swing their right leg over the seat of the chair, so that they end up sitting with their legs spread, leaning their arms on the back of the chair. […] As the dressing gowns fall to the floor, they present themselves in sexy underwear. The garments are covering their bits, but therefore seem to emphasise the naked bump even more. Upon closer inspection one can see that the individual bumps are covered in coloured hand prints, like those a child makes in nursery or kindergarten for their parents, only these hand prints are clearly those of adults. […] Out of nowhere each woman has produced a knife. They are now all moving forward to the audience. One woman, to the right of the audience, moves the knife towards her navel and in a slow, but precise movement, starts cutting her belly open. As soon as the cut is big enough something red is spilling from her belly. Rose petals are slowly making their way to the floor. Whilst this is going on, a second woman has started to cut her belly. This time syringes are falling to the ground. The women are all at the stage of either cutting or closely to cutting when the lights snap to a blackout.

The performance ends with ten visibly pregnant men, sitting in an orderly fashion on chairs in the space. They are all dressed in blood stained wedding dresses. The music the audience hear is …


What is maternity for you? What does being a mother mean for you? What kind of mother are you? Do you think women should have the right to abort? Do you think women should have the right to IVF on the NHS? Do you think women should have the right to sell their eggs? Do you think women should have the right to get sperm on the NHS? Do you think women should have the right to a surrogate on the NHS? Do you think women should have the right to sell their children? Do you think women should have the right to kill their children? Would you rather have your child die of hunger or be sold as child labourer? Would you rather have your child be killed because it is a girl or be sold as prostitute? How would you react if your new born turns out to be an hermaphrodite? Would you have it undergo an operation to determine whether it is a girl or a boy? Do you think mothers should be hold responsible for their kids’ misbehaviour? Are you a good mother?

The machinist response:

Sunday, 7th March 2010

Mapping Maternity performance

On a Sunday walk visited the Mapping Maternity durational performance (6 hours) for a short while. Here a short blurb, and a picture. Funny, interesting and intelligent, it made perfect sense as a performativity of the various assemblages, routines, codes and chaotic sequences of which the very regulated but still affective role of motherhood/maternity is formed of. It ranged from clinical contexts to affects of aurality, bodies, and spaces.Posted by Jussi Parikka at 07:46

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