I am at the start of a one-week Cixousian writing studio in Paris. I initiated this writing and art studio so I could invite Canadian arts-based scholars to join me in France, and explore connections between Cixous' texts and arts-based research practices. Four colleagues almost came! But then most needed to stay home for various reasons, and now one has actually arrived. This is my colleague and friend Barbara, who is currently on sabbatical, and joins me for this creative week. After our many years of artful collaborations, including in the Gestare Art Collective (http://www.gestareartcollective.com/), we have quickly created practices and a schedule for our week.
In Rome, Barbara and I attended the "Maternal Subjectivities" MIRCI conference:
this was wonderfully combined with the "Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy" conference, at the amazing Casa delle donne: http://www.casainternazionaledelledonne.org/index.php/it/home
We had the good fortune to sleep in the same dorm room as Annine van der Meer, who was attending the Gift economy conference. She has written a magnum opus, a book that goes alongside, extends, and updates, the work of archaeo-mythology, and Marjia Gimbutus, in tracking ancient icons, figures, symbols, in the language of “MA,” the primal mother of Paleolithic, Neolithic, Copper/Bronze/Iron ages, into our times cultures. The subtitle of Annine’s work is: “The evolution of the female image in 40,000 years of global Venus Art.” In one section of her image filled text, Annine outlines a series of specific, oft-found poses, based from affinities in ancient female figures and images across cultures.
Our Paris studio curriculum
To ground and embody our writing, Barbara and I decided to start each day holding a "MA"/ancient mother pose (7 minutes), writing after this (7 Minutes), and then each checking-in from our writing (7 minutes). We are also recording our dreams, and checking-in about these. You can see our magic number is 7! Mornings are for writing time, and afternoons for more writing, or visiting art galleries and Paris locales. In the evenings we are reading Cixous essays, including “Coming to writing,” out loud to each other. We will be meeting with my Paris 8 supervisor to visit, and discuss Cixous' writing.
The first pose is “The primal mother and ancestress gives birth.”
Looking at various figures across cultures, we see the birthing lady with her legs spread as a baby’s head emerges. She is either lying down to give birth, seated, or in squatting pose. She is also shown menstruating onto the earth, or she appears ready for sexual giving and receiving. These three aspects of physiology are of course connected. But the birth impulse is primary and significant in these poses and figures.
I hold this pose lying down, my legs open and my arms above my head. I feel a symmetry of arms, legs, and head. The baby’s head is being birthed from inside of me, which mirrors my own head, birthed between my upraised arms. I feel tingling in my hands, and a deep sense of opening, allowing the birth(s) to come through.
Barbara speaks of how her travelling sabbatical in Europe is like a “creative rest," an “active rest.” Birth-giving is itself VERY active. Yet the body is doing it for us if we let it, in surrendering to what can be an overwhelming process. Much like this trip for me. I can only be where I am in the moment. So much is happening each day, I can't go past the moment I'm in. I breath and allow the beauty of this present time. A wealth of material is being given. I am birthing many projects and connections, now and to come.
The two-headed birth-giver is a maternal image I want to draw, sew, and write more of! LOTS of these. Two heads emerging and merged in one body, mother and child. The primal pose of life, hidden in our daily cultural texts, yet without which we would not be here, or live into the creative possibilities of our lives.