The autophotographic images in this work depict the connection between mother and daughter. This connection comprises intensities and affects that resonate through movement. The desire to connect folds these intensities and affects into movement and towards ‘matter’ as momentary enactments, modalities of subjectivity, for instance, in bodily and facial expressions (Guattari 1995; Braidotti 2005/2006; Barad 2003). The purpose of this work is to enable us to consider the maternal as a ‘sphere’ in which the desire to connect is explicit, and enables movement between separation and connection. I employ Bracha L. Ettinger’s (2006) concept of ‘encounter-event’ to create an understanding of motherhood as a sphere for this significant affective relationality. Erin Manning’s (2013) theorization of movement is also utilized to help to make sense of how the various ‘shifting perspectives of one’s being’ take place in such encounters; in other words, how these temporary identifications and subjective formations occur and become possible. This is to understand these human and non-human processes relationally, constantly creating us as more than one. These maternal encounter-events subjectivize us within processes that occur beyond traditional developmental narratives. According to Ettinger, we cannot talk about the development of subjects, since we are always in the process of transformation and co-production as we are (separately) connected to one another, and to our mother-as-the-other, being born, that is, of a female body (Ettinger 2006, p. 4, 123).

In this co-production, ‘the maternal’ denotes neither motherhood nor becoming or being a mother; instead, the maternal is the ‘in-between’ connection in which the subject is perceived as attuned and transformingly connected to an adult female subject (Kristeva 1985; Ettinger 1992, 2006, 2009). ‘Subject’ is constantly and differently formed in relation to others. In the early stages, this occurs in relation to the mother, since bodily functions are shared with the mother as the separate other. Mother-as-the-other is therefore part of our embodied historical subjectivity, which is constantly changing. This enables us to consider the maternal as a ‘sphere’ that is able to ‘embrace’ and ‘nurture’ these connections in everyday encounters. Hence, femaleness does not denote femininity or womanhood as gendered identity; rather, it signifies a process that is both actively embodied and metaphorical. Motherhood is the multitude of elements in this process, producing collective pre-subjective images, points of reference, and enactments. These are the images we keep generating. They become arrangements and dispositions that are recognisable as feminine or masculine, but always in their ‘mattering’ depend on momentary arrangements and the various events in which they emerge (Braidotti 2006; Ettinger 2005, 2006; Massumi 2006). As the maternal relational ‘sphere’ fosters sustainable ways of being and becoming, it also endorses femaleness as a fundamental element of identity construction, regardless of one’s sex.

The text on the video work

  1. We are all connected to the female ‘other’ as we grow within attuned to our mothers … thus, we are all attuned, reattuned, transformed, transconnected, transformingly connected to a female, adult female subject, femaleness….
  2. ‘This [connection] is a trail of separation-in-jointness, which is not incision [nor] a trace of a lost object’ … but a movement that ebbs, flows and enables ‘the co-emergence and co-fading of I and non-I’ (Ettinger 2006, p. 123, 4).
  3. The movement is the uniting force between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’, the one and the many, in this encounter-event … making the movement a temporary ‘nest’ for an affective attunement (Manning 2013, p. 7).
  4. To be able to translate the affects of the event conveyed by the movement requires affective attuning to the other … and reaching towards interpersonal and shared experiences….
  5. Attunement follows within the movement, its whirls and twirls, since the movement ‘gathers together’ the atmospheres, feelings and reactions of the event (Ettinger 2006; Manning 2013).
  6. This is to trace the affects and intensities attached to the movement into an encounter-event, forming a momentary bond between a daughter and a mother-as-the-other.
  7. ‘The maternal subject work inside the so called inspiration […] there is […] human capacity to transconnect to other psychic mind, to reattune to one another […] this capacity to transconnect affectively, through affects, through phantasmatic phases is that human shape that we are from the beginning’ (Ettinger 2012).