Conversations with my mother (unabridged)
This is my story of severance.
It explores the relationship I had with my mother and my own inability to become one. It is a
photographic performance of being cut from the role of daughter while at the same time denied a maternal role to shape my future.
We had been tentatively making work together using a single disposable camera, taking photographs of our own lives. I would take one and send the camera to her in the post; she would do the same. We tried to communicate through this process.
Not long after my fertility began to unravel. I was unable to concentrate on my story because it was then we both found out she was going to die.
I dismantled my existing life to relocate and care for her, my second parent dying of cancer. In the immediate moment I was concerned with the gesture to record her as she was but felt the
photograph’s inability to do this. I photographed myself responding to the surroundings, to
negotiating space. Once or twice I asked my mother to photograph me, echoing the way we had used a camera only a few months before. I tried to make sense of things that had no sense except sadness.
I jostled with several personas during this period - wife, daughter, sister, artist. I gained new roles and became Carer. I became child-less…. or child-free. We strived to understand and love each
other more completely; we looked at each other seeking resemblance, resentment, entanglement and reliance. I became Orphan.
I put on her chemotherapy wig afterwards – it was the only thing that smelled of her. I burned, buried and embellished photographs of us. I performed my grief and began to stitch.
I cried a lot for her. I cried for my loss of feeling the hug of her body, her touch, her laugh. I cried in sorrow at the abrupt suspension of future narratives, for the mother I would not hold again and for the child who would never hold me.
Jessa Fairbrother, 2016