Week 10: Belmore’s Speaking To Their Mothers

Consider the ways Speaking to Their Mothers offers alternative modes of recognition and connection through performance. Between what and whom? Or what and what? Who is the audience and who is the performer?

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7 thoughts on “Week 10: Belmore’s Speaking To Their Mothers

  1. I love that Rebecca Belmore decided to turn her anger into something empowering and beautiful for her own community and for mother nature. Her art ends up feeling more like a gift than a performance. The creation itself feels more important than the actual words. Although spoken through a giant megaphone, it feels as though the words are still somehow private, for the speaker and mother earth only. Is mother earth the only audience? Perhaps there is no audience at all. Perhaps there is no performer. Belmore said she prefers the word “creation” over “art.” Speaking to Their Mothers feels much more like a creation than a performance or piece of art. A creation/prayer/meditation/tribute for and by the people. For her family and community. For mother earth. It was made from the earth for the earth. Belmore says in the video that it does not belong to her but to the people and to the earth. I find it amazing how comfortable and at east people seemed talking through the megaphone to mother earth. It was beautiful watching their love and emotion.

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    1. I’m interested in Belmore’s decision to point the megaphone towards the Earth rather than the political establishment of 1991 Canada. Confrontation seems, at some level, to be built into the very nature of spoken language; so much so that we commonly say in voice work that the purpose of speech is to transform one’s interlocutor—to bend a listener into an emotional state that will support the speaker’s goals.
      But the imaginative act of treating the Earth as a listener seems to change that dynamic—in some ways, it reminds me of performing before an audience of spirits in Balinese theater. What is the purpose of talking to the Earth? Probably not to change her mind. Watching the speakers talk into the megaphone, I was struck by how intimate and meditative their tone seemed (although I can’t understand their language), even though they were speaking surrounded by a community.
      Are the speakers performers or audiences? I would argue that they are both: they “witness” the story given to them by the artist, that the megaphone will speak to the earth, but also actively participate in making that story and perform for the Earth. We typically think of audiences as the recipients of a service done by performers, but the relationship here seems more fluid, with both “performers” and “audience” wielding agency and seeking healing.
      The wolf howl and the fiddling caught my fancy. Those are both the things I would do with a giant megaphone.
      –Jack Dwyer

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  2. Rebecca Bellmore’s megaphone project reminded me a little bit of the 70’s commercial with the Native American man crying, but generally I was on board with Rebecca’s desire to give something back to the land. What’s great about this piece is that the people speaking into the megaphone become both the audience and the performers much like children who discover their reflection in a funhouse mirror. The megaphone certainly doesn’t serve the land (in fact it will probably end up in a trash heap somewhere eventually), but it serves those who’ve lost touch with their environment and those who feel the need to perform their connection to the land. Art that allows people who don’t necessarily consider themselves artists to participate in the art making is so effective at creating discourse (probably the reason most political artists use interactive guerilla performance art). What I value most about Bellmore’s creation, is that she diverted her anger from a hostile protest to a peaceful creation. In the end, her words became less important than the words of those who spoke into the megaphone.

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  3. I found Rebecca Belmore’s installation piece (though I’m unsure of the correct terminology) to be interesting, effective and original. I was particularly struck by her notion of bringing political action to different Mohawk communities, rather than summoning an angry mob to protest at the capital. This outreach to separate communities, on their own land, seems to get to the heart of the issue itself; in this political, yet artistic and peaceful gesture, the Mohawk people were able to mourn for and directly to the land. In its documentation, this mourning becomes both an aggressive political indictment, but also an intensely personal and moving artistic assertion. I appreciated how Belmore provided the opportunity for people to grieve in a public, but not showy way. Ultimately, I thought this attempt at communal catharsis to be incredibly powerful.

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  4. I am listening to the people speaking into the megaphone about halfway through and find myself wishing that I could understand what they are saying. I realize that this is strangely enough a private conversation between human and nature. Between mother and child, as it were. Despite the fact that there are other people listening, the speaker is always at ease with having his/her voice amplified over the land. They aren’t speaking for the applause at the end, nor for the camera. They seem to speak for whatever response they get. Whether it be an echo, a wolf (?) howling back, or simply the expulsion of thought/sound without need for anything in return. I would hazard to say that there is no performer because there is no audience. There is rather a call for response and therefore communication is sought between the two parties: speaker and whatever else is on the other side, whether it be person, place, or thing. One could argue that both parties are the performers and the audience is the people crowded around the megaphone speaker. However, once again, I will argue that these people are not necessary for the piece to take place. All that is needed are the two parties and nothing more.

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  5. This piece is pretty moving. To see an artist work through positivity is powerful. She literally stands on the precipice of destruction and sends out healing. But she does this not only by empowering herself but giving her community a chance to speak their own language and their own hearts to this destruction. In this way Belmore breaks down the barriers of performance. In her world art is a communal act. The experience becomes the audience. The people speak to the land and they wait for a response. She makes room for an experience. This challenges notions of linear time and producer/consumer. How can we make room for this level of humility in our work? How can we literally build something new? A new forrest, a new relationship, a new understanding.

    How do we give over our strong-hold over our own art? Do we always have to produce “products” for others?

    Do we need giant megaphones to hear each other?

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  6. There is always this ongoing argument centered around the purpose of art, and whether or not it can be perceived as self indulgent or attainable. I feel like this piece is a good example of self filling and enlightening art. There is something so, captivating and strong in this work.

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