Dead Mother is about living. It attempts to make visible a hidden absence. It is about women who are successfully living their lives, invisibly accommodating the continuing space of their mother’s death at a crucial period of their neurological development. No one asks about the nature of the absence and the effect it has. It remains hidden to all but those closest. What exactly is the space?
'15 years ago, it was widely assumed that the vast majority of brain development takes place in the first few years of life. Back then we didn’t have the ability to look inside the living human brain and track development across the lifespan' - Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, 2012
Now we do. Current research in neurology and psychology are discovering how crucial the period of brain development is between the ages of 11 – 24 years. An adolescent’s brain is particularly ‘plastic’ and susceptible to environmental factors, providing significant potential for learning and adaptation, but also vulnerability with respect to mental health.
While there is a substantial body of research concerned with acute presentations of childhood and young adult bereavement, little is known about the nature of the long-term effects of loss and its affective consequences on those who do not present with obvious serious psychiatric problems. No one asked.
Engaging with Neuro-scientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Neuro-psychologist Professor Martin Conway, Psychoanalyst Dr Michael Parsons, ethics advice from Professor Roger Higgs, and discussions with Writer and Researcher Dr Caterina Albano, Artist Anne Brodie and her sister G.P Dr Catriona Brodie, have looked at the nature of the long-term effects of a mother’s death in adolescence. A series of film and photographic outcomes have been created based upon interviews with women at different stages in their lives who have a shared experience of their own mother’s death when they were aged 14 and 17 respectively.
Anne Brodie is a visual artist with a cross disciplinary approach to her work. After a first degree in Biology, Anne completed a MA at the Royal College of Art in 2003. Working experimentally with hot glass, film and photography, she jointly won the international Bombay Sapphire prize for design and innovation with her short film Roker Breakfast in 2005.
A pivotal shift in her working practice occurred after 2006 when Anne was awarded the British Antarctic Survey / Arts Council Artists and Writers fellowship to Antarctica, where she lived and worked in isolated scientific bases for nearly three months. Often working at the boundaries between science and art, her current practice explores questions of ownership and the decision-making processes involved in what constitutes ‘valid data’.
In 2009 Anne was awarded a Wellcome Trust arts award for the collaborative project Exploring the Invisible looking at bacterial bioluminescence and its external relationship with the human body.
Anne Brodie's work has been shown nationally and internationally, at venues including the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Royal Institution of Great Britain, Burlington House Piccadilly, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris. She was recently included in Winter Shuffle, St Clements disused Psychiatric Hospital in Mile End, and has been awarded an artist’s residency in Spring 2015 by the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Bio Art society, to live and work at Kilpisjarvi Biological Research Station in the Sub Arctic for 2 months.
The artist received Research and Development funding from the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England funding for Production in 2014.
Dead Mother is produced by Elizabeth Newell and will tour to the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, Autumn 2014.