Zineb Sedira

Mother Tongue 2002

“Sedira’s video work “Mother Tongue” looks at three generations of the artist’s family, each communicating in their own ‘mother tongue’, but unable to communicate directly through words. “Mother Tongue” features documentary-style interviews that the artist conducted with her mother and her daughter. The multilingual nature of the dialogues—in Arabic, French and English—connects past and present, revealing bonds that are subtle yet resilient. About the work Sedira states:

“Lack of communication is also a way of conveying meaning. My mother never learned French properly because she wanted to show her rejection of the French language and behaviour after the war of independence, even though she and my father lived in France for economic reasons—North African immigrants were used as cheap labor. They experienced a lot of racism, and my parents felt a sense of failure that they had to bring up their children in that culture. They were angry that the French had managed to divide their Arab identity too, setting Algerians against each other by giving French citizenship to Algerian Christians and Jews but not Muslims, so that Arabs and Algerians would turn against each other.”

—Amy Brandt, Exhibition Assistant, Global Feminisms


I really resonated with this piece in relation to how language and the mother-daughter relationship is portrayed. The dynamic of being multilingual is something which plays out in most of my family experiences and I think this is something prevalent in my piece through my recordings with my mother. Personally English is the language which I am most comfortable with but I felt that by having my mother tell the story in English, which isn’t her mother tongue, it would make the piece detached from its origins in Senegal. Initially, my mother chose to tell the story in French and I think this is partly due to my younger sisters who were also present for the recording not being able to speak Wolof, which was the language my mother was told the story in. French is also colonial language deeply integrated into Senegalese society, and I’ve found that dissimilarly to Sedira’s mother, she didn’t reject the language. Instead, I feel she takes ownership by using the colonial language in order to convey a narrative relating to Senegalese heritage.


Dale Harding and Jordan Upkett

Memory 2018 – Tarrawarra From Will to Form

“As a Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal man Dale Harding is of the land in Central Queensland. Stories of becoming are familiar in Aboriginal concepts of country. For Harding this is Yoondhalla, meaning ‘one in the one place’, a concept that speaks of the interconnectedness of everything, the shared substance of will that we draw from and pour back into at the same time. Here, in a forty-metre wall drawing, Harding brings up the earth from his grandmother’s Garingbal country in the Carnarvon Gorge area, carrying the will of the land with him from Central Queensland to TarraWarra. Harding and his young cousin Jordan each engrave a memory of the Carnarvon Gorge’s undulations onto the Vista Walk’s eastern wall that reflect the ridgeline visible through the windows opposite. This collapsing of space and time is extended through the stencilling of local flora using the vibrant earth of elsewhere. The red Ghangalu earth is mixed with saliva and blown and rubbed into the Museum’s wall, becoming a vast field of colour, which both folds into and transcends the aspirational language of American colour field paintings. Freed from an objective context the pigment can resonate and emanate in itself.”

– From Will to Form, 2018 Biennial Catalogue by Emily Cormack

Whilst on my study abroad in Australia, I saw this piece at the Tarrawarra gallery by Dale Harding and Jordan Upkett. After my week 8 crit session around the significance of having the language of the storytelling be something which isn’t accessible to an anglophone audience, it reminded me of the experience I had with the wall piece at this museum.

The curator explained to us that there was a story being told in the piece, but that it has an important cultural significance to the artists Aboriginal community, and there were only certain aspects he was allowed to tell and explain to an outsider.

What I felt in having a visual impact but knowing there was something beyond the visuals that I didn’t necessarily have access to. To me this created an interesting experience with the piece, I could appreciate it in its formal qualities but was intrigued that there was something deeply personal that I will probably never fully understand. So my relationship with the piece will evidently be different from what the artists experience, which will also differ from what a general audience experiences compared to an audience from the same Aboriginal community as the artists.

Mona Hatoum


Measures of Distance 1988

“Measures of Distance is a video work comprising several layered elements. Letters written by Hatoum’s mother in Beirut to her daughter in London appear as Arabic text moving over the screen and are read aloud in English by Hatoum. The background images are slides of Hatoum’s mother in the shower, taken by the artist during a visit to Lebanon. Taped conversations in Arabic between mother and daughter, in which her mother speaks openly about her feelings, her sexuality and her husband’s objections to Hatoum’s intimate observation of her mother’s naked body are intercut with Hatoum’s voice in English reading the letters.

Hatoum has said:

Although the main thing that comes across is a very close and emotional relationship between mother and daughter, it also speaks of exile, displacement, disorientation and a tremendous sense of loss as a result of the separation caused by war. In this work I was also trying to go against the fixed identity that is usually implied in the stereotype of Arab woman as passive, mother as non-sexual being the work is constructed visually in such a way that every frame speaks of literal closeness and implied distance.
(Quoted in Mona Hatoum 1997, p.140).”


I found some interesting links in the process of my project to Measures of Distance by Mona Hatoum. In my piece, I feel that I felt that same important emotional connection with my mother was an important part of making my piece as at first, my mum was a bit wary of having a recording of her voice be a part of my piece. And the recordings ended up being inadvertently a conversation not just between my mother and me, but also my younger sisters and my mother.

I also found a link in the disparity of language, where Hatoum reads her mothers letters written in Arabic in English.  My mother similarly engages in act of translation, perhaps for the sake of the audience (in the case of the mother the audience being my younger sisters) or perhaps because of the different cultural upbringing, where my mother seems to have become more comfortable in her French storytelling having grown up with a French education.

Rachael Minott

Today we had Rachael Minott, an Art student Alumni come in to give us a talk about her experiences whilst at university as well as her after she graduated.

I found her talk extremely inspiring as a lot of her processes into her 3rd year were quite similar to what I’ve experienced. Rachael had also been on a study abroad and found herself a bit lost when getting back into the swing of the studio module in Reading.

I had earlier considered doing a project relating to my Senegalese cultural background as it is something I’ve always wanted to do work into but haven’t really looked into whilst at university, and Rachael’s practice at university was linked her Jamaican heritage so it gave me quite a lot of insight into the type of project I wanted to start doing.

Rachael spoke a lot about how research influences her practice which interested me but was something I was quite sure how to balance in terms of your practice. After speaking to her after the talk she gave me some useful tips on how to approach research with your work. Particularly that I use structured questions, and ask myself why I want to do the work I am doing.


Jaqueline Poirier

Poirier is an Canadian painter who paints on plates, a quote from her website that drew my attention, is where she claims that in her work she is “creating a multi-sensory experience that reaches to a world beyond visual stimulation. Capturing my art on porcelain plates is one example of how my work extends beyond the visual realm to become something functional; a tactile experience of art that establishes a continuity between eyes, mind, and appetite”

I think this tactile experience of art that she describes is something that I would be interested in developing my work, so I plan to do some experiments painting on plates, to create that visual relationship between eyes, mind and appetite in my portraying the relation between women and food.

Pre-Raphaelite Portraits

For the Pre-Raphaelites, the first focal point in the movement was about the body – it’s phases were staged around how the human body was represented. The body was a focus for public and private pleasure.

In paintings, each of these women’s expressions embody enigma and distance; oftentimes, their poses remain static versus active.

The idealised Pre-Raphaelites often included an asymmetrical gaze, particularly in the interaction between men and women. Where men and women would look in different directions, often the man would be gazing directly at the woman, whilst the woman would look off into the distance or coyly has her eyes down. This can also be seen in the difference between self portraits and the portraits of women, where the man was always looking directly at the viewer and the women looking away. This asymmetry of the gazes is something that creates a male fantasy, where the woman is more easily fetishised.

Pre-Raphaelites also almost never painted nudes. There are two theories by Ioan P. Culiau for why this is, one states that human beings cover their bodies out of modesty and decency,  as clothes should be an obstacle to the eye and a sign of male ownership. Whilst the second theory is that the clothes become a sexual stimulant as although they cover the body, it attracts attention to it.




Chloe Wise

Chloe Wise is a Canadian artist whose works relates to the female form and its often sexualised portrayal within art history to the consumption of food, which tends to be advertised in a sensual way (which she finds comedic).

  • In the past (particularly Preraphaelites), paintings of women looking away posed elegantly without “knowledge” – like a still life of fruit of family heirloom
  • There’s a link of fruit with fertility
  • Also links to the luxury/wealth/abundance of what the women pose with in the paintings
  • Links between fruit and beauty – where it is momentary and is captured before it will wilt and decay
  • Food advertisements will play onto to the viewer’s desire, it’ll be slow motion & erotic in its movement with carnal desires played into
  • Food & sex are similarly visually, description of food e.g sinful, decadent ooze of cake, moist layers
  • Stickiness and shininess denote desire, sweaty and sexy (implicates this in the painting, makes you wonder which is the subject and which is the object)

Polly Nor

Another influence for my photo series was the themes in the illustrations of Polly Nor.

Polly Nor is an illustrator who is best known for her dark and satirical drawings of women and their demons. Her drawings explore themes of identity, female sexuality and emotional turmoil throughout her work, Nor is inspired by her own female experience of life in the internet-age. Her Illustrations often tell stories of anxiety, self doubt, and the struggle for self-love.