Through analysis of a live performance in which I shared recordings from a long-distance walk carrying my baby on my back, I consider the functions of reproduced media within the performance of maternal roles. Concepts of ‘natural’ mothering are as contestable as those surrounding the purity of liveness, yet both remain shorthands for value systems that exist within and beyond the art world. As such I suggest that familiar theories of artistic reproduction may also offer useful paradigms through which to dismantle the essentialisms popular culture uses to understand the maternal role.
I argue that the curation of recorded media can reveal culturally reproduced maternal behaviours which go beyond the biological. This ritualised labour is often done in private and is frequently overlooked as performance. I propose that witnessing and taking part in live performance where these multiple forms of reproduction are centralised can bring more nuance to the audience’s understandings of the performer who is also a mother.