“People automatically draw a sexual connotation when you’re getting into bed with someone,” King says, “but with this piece we’re dealing with a presexual time in people’s lives, before those thoughts even began.”
Upon entering the gallery space you are greeted by a three-member “team of mothers” (King, along with Montreal-based performer Nathalie Claude and Dayna McLeod who performed in Buddies shows The Beauty Salon and Anne Made Me Gay). You can join the action any time. After removing your boots and donning a pair of slippers, you are offered some flannel pyjamas to wear. “The PJs go a long way in desexualizing the experience for people,” says King, laughing. “As well as neutralizing the shape of the body, the sensation of flannel against your skin suggests comfort rather than beauty.”
You are then led to the kitchen for a snack (either a grilled cheese sandwich, soup or milk and cookies, depending on the time you arrive) and then it’s off to the living room for games and puzzles. Then, when mom decides it’s getting late, it’s off to bed, after the requisite bedtime story of course.
Though she hails from the tiny town of East Farnham, Quebec, it was a trip to Whitehorse that sparked this piece. “I’m not sure if it was the cold or the small-town feel, but being in the Yukon got me thinking about all things maternal and home-related,” she says. King returned four months later to do a workshop of with a couple of Yukon-based artists and figured out she was on to something. “I realized that there is this notion of mothering that we share across the country,” she says. “The original image of a mother in the piece was based on my own mom, but I figured out there’s something universal there that we can all tap into.”
Though she’s worked in traditional theatre for decades in recent years King’s work has moved into the realm of relational aesthetics — a division of performance art that focuses on creating a relationship between performer and viewer. Pieces like Walk-In Clinic in 2007 and The Beauty Salon in 2008 have seen King interacting with her audience members in a much more direct fashion. Rather than a change in direction King sees these pieces as a natural evolution. “Live performance has the power to communicate with people in a way that film and TV just can’t,” she says. “There is a sense of touch in conventional theatre between the actor and the audience. Even if you aren’t actually touching them you still have two hot bodies in a room making a connection.” She laughs. “Now it sounds like I’m talking about sex again.”
Presented by Fado, Mothering runs Sat, Feb 14 to 17 from 4pm to 10pm at Xpace (58 Ossington Ave). Admission is free; call (416) 822-3219 or go to Performanceart.ca.