4. Eighteen paces (traffic dependent).

I became a walking artist out of necessity. As a new mother, I couldn’t walk without taking my daughter with me, and I wasn’t ready to have to choose between spending time with her or on my practice. “Maternity Leaves” documents a series of short performative walks within a mile radius of my home, exploring the time and space of motherhood. Drifting around my own locality,  my newly myopic attention to the patterns, demographics, and waymarkers I discovered paralleled that which is given to newborns. The slow changing of the seasons similarly reminded me that I couldn’t will her to smile, not have colic, sleep all night, eat solids, walk, etc. any faster than nature intended.

1. Nine paces.

Like Rousseau, these (not quite) solitary walks offered me precious time for reverie, but also to reflect on my choice to become a mother. In addition to the themes of ambivalence and abandonment, these images document a performer interrogating her own performance in this new role, as I dared myself to take a few more steps away from my subject/audience/co-performer than was emotionally comfortable. This exploration of distance was subtly affected by the real and imagined reactions of passers by, and so the titles, detailing the number of steps taken, are a plaintiff acknowledgement of this responsibility. The difference between ‘ahh, look – a mother taking a photo of her baby’ and ‘what the hell is she doing?’ is only a few paces.”

6. Twenty paces.

About Lizzie Philps

I make participatory performance projects, including theatre, installations, site-based and walking events under the name Full Beam.
All my projects share a desire to illuminate and document the performative in daily life. The work is playful and irreverent, and explores the sensory, the la…Read more

Website: http://fullbeam.wordpress.com/

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2 Responses to “Maternity Leaves”

  1. Kaye Heyes

    Wow, Lizzie. Your post and work really moved me. I remember so clearly those daily (sometimes hourly!) walks I took with my first-born. Sometimes I had to walk with my eyes closed I was so desperately, desperately tired.

    I love that you made the walks part of your practice (I was way too tired to even consider such a possibility!) and your final sentence simply blew me away.

    The way that you view your baby as subject/co-performer/audience/ is such a profound approach to motherhood and to your work too.

    I remember the exploration of distance that you encapsualte so well here. The first time I managed to go have a pee on my own; the first time I left the room, went upstairs, right up to leaving my precious wee baby on his first day at nursery.

    Thank you for sharing the way you document the performance of everyday life. It has helped me remember and consider and smile at how far I have come in the 10 minutes before I have to start work at the office.

  2. Lizzie Philps

    Thanks for these words, Kaye. It’s funny that we can remember the first times we left a newborn. I think this project started the day I came home from hospital. I felt totally elated to walk – not waddle- round the corner to the shops, but measured every step like never before. As you say, it is worth remembering how far we have come, if only to show those who still cant get the distance they crave/fear that it will happen, step by step.


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