Santa Maria Hostel in partnership with artist Branislav Jankic hosted MILA – A sculpture and performance
Words by Celia Wickham
In Branislav Jankic’s latest iteration of his ongoing visual and literary project Letter to My Mother, Jankic has created a participatory performative experience, resulting in a powerfully collective sculptural object. The piece, which took place on June 20th 2018, involved the women of Santa Maria Hostel in Houston Texas, a recovery center for mothers overcoming substance abuse and addiction.
Stemming from Jankic’s own experiences growing up in former Yugoslavia with a mother suffering from alcohol addiction, this specific iteration of the project takes its name, Mila, after Jankic’s own mother. Through the creation of Letter to My Mother, and the unfolding of Jankic’s own individual narrative, this performative work allows for the opening of a communal space, where activated and ritualised healing gives way to recovery and transformation.
As the performative work began, the mothers of Santa Maria Hostel were invited into the space and asked to carve their names and the names of their children, into a rhombus shaped table. Made from salvaged wood, the table’s shape is symbolic of traditional Eastern European understandings of the rhombus as a sign of motherhood and fertility. Through the performative action of engraving, these women were able to re-write their experiences of motherhood, as their stories folded into one another, coming together in the creation of this shared and sculpted object. In this way, each woman was given a sacred space to re-shape and shift binding concepts of both maternal and paternal love.
Through their communal and collective actions, mark making became both process and site for the unravelling and transformation of trauma to occur. It was in these women’s sculptural reckonings that the mothers of Santa Maria Hostel were able to create and carve the way for new and empowered futures to unfold. In this process of inscription, new meanings were accessed and made possible, turning trauma outwards, as we held a space to bear witness to its marks, both seen and unseen.
As the externalisation and witnessing of trauma took place, it gave way to a gap for grief and mourning to emerge, whilst still allowing an opening for recovery and catharsis. As the sculptural object came to be the embodiment of the lives and memories of these women, histories became traversed and delineated, and their stories stitched together through time.
During the piece, the sound of the mothers etching their names on to the table, and the meticulous movement of their hands, was recorded from a camera above. Through the careful documentation and capturing of these moments, it is Jankic’s intention to use these sounds and images in the continuation of the work in its installation form.
This form will exist through Jankic projecting these recordings on top of the wooden sculptural object, as a ghostly and powerful doubling is achieved, where past, present, and future begin to become blurred and transposed. In this way, both the physical and the ephemeral are given space to co-exist and intermingle within the object, as both the marks of time past, and present, are witnessed and memorialized.
The work shows the ways in which these paths of articulation and healing are not straightforward, and never will be, but through the boldness of their inscriptions and tellings, these women’s stories are powerful and radiate the strength of the maternal bond.
To find out more information about Branislav Jankic and the Letter to My Mother project, please go to www.lettertomymother.us
For information about this partnership contact: firstname.lastname@example.org