THREE VIDEOS BY CHANTEL MIERAU

I am both nostalgic for and critical of what I perceive as the traditional role of a rural Canadian woman. This results in the coexistence of comfort and discomfort in the videos, LarvaCocoon, and Hatching.  I use both the medium of textiles and the settings we find them in to create feelings of both comfort and discomfort in repetitions. These smaller repetitions ultimately point to the macro-repetition  of tradition itself.

I grew up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan where I helped my mom with cooking, cleaning and gardening.  Those years spiraled in cycles of baking different traditional breads, and the weeks spun around the repetitions of Saturday cleaning, Sunday rest, Monday laundry, etc. I am primarily concerned with the tradition of women in the domestic sphere, otherwise known as ‘homemaking’.  The repetitious aspect of the domestic sphere inspired titles that refer to the cycle of metamorphosis.

Textiles allow me to doubly explore the theme of tradition, both in the repetitious actions required to form them (as in Cocoon), and in textile techniques like knitting (as in Larva) that are passed down from generation to generation, especially between women.  In each of the videos, textiles restrict and cause discomfort, subverting the tendency to see the material, the act of making it, and traditional women’s roles as only familiar and benevolent.

In each of the videos the subject demonstrates a profound inability to move on, or move at all. Despite great activity –squirming, winding or shuffling– the subject’s surroundings, like the peeling of paint, unmowed grass and rotting architecture, suggest stagnation. Efforts have been made to keep things as they are, resulting in a lack of rebirth in each of these scenes, which in turn has not kept things as they are, but resulted in decay.  At the same time, there is something familiar in the old barns, the room with the lace curtain, and the wood-panelled wall that will remind many of home.

These three works restlessly argue with themselves, debating whether a tradition is a comfortable home, or a restrictive trap.  By presenting rot and decay next to coziness and familiarity, I expose my own ambivalence towards the traditions I was raised with.  I am working out what I want to hold on to from my own experiences, and what I want to reject and let go of. ♦

 

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