Motherhood from A to Z
Mucem, fort Saint-Jean—
Salle des collections
From Wednesday 17 May 2023 to Monday 2 October 2023
Since February 2018, the Mucem has dedicated a space to an atypical way to discover its collections: located in the Fort Saint-Jean, the "Collections Room" presents the museum's assets through thematic exhibitions organised in the form of an abecedary, which are renewed every six months. This is an original way of introducing audiences to the diversity of the Mucem's vast collections, which include over 350,000 objects among a million-plus items: what do they have to tell us about the major themes of our lives? Our passions, our fears, our beliefs?
The great variety of the Mucem's collections allows us to explore each of these themes, "from A to Z". Further to "Love", "Animals", "Reliquaries", "Chance", "Flora", "Resistances", "I sign therefore I am", "Another Italy", and "Earth", the spring of 2023 will explore the theme of "Motherhood".
Motherhood is a universal and original theme. One needn't be a mother to have one as a point of reference, of different characterisations – from the Madre represented by the Madonna to the adored mum.
Every motherhood is singular, and if the word pregnant also implies delimited and surrounded, the term "motherhood" cannot be locked down in a glossary. It is sometimes a state, sometimes an establishment, or a way to artistically represent fecundity, that of mother and child.
How does a mother tongue translate the desire and choice to become a mother, or not? What terms and artworks can be used to express the absence of choice to be a mother, to express infertility, renunciation, or the unthinkable, the loss of a child? Motherhood still evokes the figures of the mother-in-law, the grandmother, the absent mother, the mater dolorosa [the sorrowful mother], the courageous mother, the unworthy mother, and the nurturing mother.
Between the mystery of incarnation, the miracle of birth and the moving materiality of mucous membranes, the exhibition spells out motherhood in all of its plurality, through a deep dive into the exclusive collections of the Mucem. What do these objects say today about popular representations and the society that produced them? What do these motherhoods demonstrate about the status, voices and wombs of women?
So, A as in Annunciation, Amenorrhoea, Abortion and Adoption? E as in Enfantement [childbirth], Education, Emancipation and Épuisement maternel [parental burn-out]?
The abecedary unravels the commonplace, from A to Z, from the mother to the whore.