Abstract

Photo credit: Zoe Manders

Playing Kate: commoning maternal performance through persona as confrontation and disruption.

This study, through a practice as research project titled Playing Kate (2017-19), draws together three strands of enquiry: class politics, the performance of persona, and contemporary maternal performance. The research responds to repliKating, a cultural and social phenomenon specific to the internet, in which women and mothers repliKate the outfits of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate). The thesis argues that repliKation can be understood as a far wider practice and as a ‘psychopolitical project’ (Han, 2017) in which Kate as a ‘Maternal Media Object’ (MMO) works to enclose other maternal identities and views. Through my own process of repliKation, situated within maternal performance, the research responds to the first three post birth appearances of Kate MMO, in which she is photographed outside the hospital, at the supermarket and in the garden. Drawing from my own ‘social location’ (O'Reilly, 2021), through comparison and difference to Kate MMO, I examine Kate through the lens of performance, as I position Kate as performer of class ideology. Through examining Kate’s ‘indeterminate persona’ (Clancy, 2021) I create my own maternal performance persona – Playing Kate, as a type of maternal activism to unpack the un-classy assumption, “who does she think she is? Kate Middleton?!” Placing myself between Kate (the commoner done good), the maternal performance artist (myself) and my mother (still a commoner) the Playing Kate persona confronts and disrupts representations of maternal experience as produced by Kate MMO. Through my own exploration of repliKation the study argues how multiple understandings of the term common, which I frame as (in)common, common(er) and common(ing) can be identified and employed. The study draws together the (in)common-ing practice of repliKation, commonly shared early maternal moments, common ‘moments of maternal performance’ (Šimić, 2018), representations of common(ers), political ideas of commoning (Stavrides, 2016 and Mollona, 2021), and the maternal commons (Tyler, 2013). This study argues that there is a significant gap in research in relation to class in the field of maternal performance. It also argues that persona, as understood through Live Art practices, is a useful methodology in commoning maternal performance. The research contributes the term commoning maternal performance as a distinct category of queering, that adds to O’Reilly’s strategies within matricentric feminism (2021).

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Jodie Hawkes

Jodie Hawkes makes work as Search Party is collaboration with artist Pete Phillips.

Formed in 2005 Search Party's work has encompassed theatre, live art, durational performance, participatory art, home video and performative writing. Our work playfully disrupts our position(s) in the world, as underdogs, as parents, as consumers, as lovers, as strangers, as ageing bodies, as armchair sports fans, as generation-renters, as amateur runners, and as timid climate activists. We have made performances for theatres, galleries, public squares, 24-hour parties, high streets, village fetes, parks, shopping centres, across rivers, between bridges and along seafronts.

Photo credit: Paul Blakemore