Where were the Mothers?
Linda Duvall’s Where Were the Mothers? is a multimedia exhibit that explores the uneasy fluidity of truth, and reveals the contradictions in trying to assert a singular or absolute narrative. “We are deluged by reports of violent acts and seemingly senseless criminal activities, and we often look for someone to blame,” Duvall says. A common response is ‘Where were their mothers?’ Duvall explores the assumptions behind this phrase by focusing on the relationship between “people who have taken alternative life paths” and their mothers.
The exhibit presents the complicated narratives of people who have had run-ins with the law, lived or worked on the street, dealt with addictions or participated in illegal street gangs. Each of these participants collaborated with a professional musician to produce an original song about their mother. Condensing a lifetime of stories into three minutes of music both compresses and alters the original narratives. Duvall juxtaposes videotaped excerpts of the song production process alongside the finished songs.
A second layer of complication results from the staging of the encounter between two strangers – in this case the participant and the musician. Thorny issues of roles and authorship emerge. Who really shaped each song, and what preconceptions were brought to the interaction by each party?
The exhibit also includes Duvall’s interviews with other mothers whose offspring have deviated from conventional paths. Areas of discussion include issues of blame, available support systems for mental health or addiction needs, and the secrecy surrounding such stories.
Where were the Mothers has been presented at:
Art Gallery of Mississauga, Mississauga 2009
Adelaide Resource Centre for Women, Toronto (launch of CD) 2009
Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina 2010
Toronto Dismas Fellowship for Ex-Offenders – Toronto 2010
White Buffalo Youth Lodge, Saskatoon (co-presentation with Mendel Art Gallery) 2010
“Journeying Through Grief”, Grief Training Program, Jane and Finch, Toronto 2010
Aboriginal Funders Event hosted by Saskatchewan Arts Board, Saskatoon 2010
Gang Prevention Forum, Western Development Museum, Saskatoon 2010
Community Memorial and Celebration of Life, Jane Finch Community, Toronto 2010
Social Work Program, First Nation University of Canada, Saskatoon 2010
A long time coming by Peggy Gale
Singing the Abject and Listening Obliquely by Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández
Engaging Strangers by David Garneau
For excerpts from the songs, click here
Visit the article Difficult stories shared in Saskatoon artist's songwriting project
by Jeanette Stewart, The Star Phoenix
Read Bart Gazolla's comments in his THE A WORD blog
Scroll to the section Road tripping to Regina…..
A review of the CD Where were the Mothers? is available in Robert Francos' column in Jersey Beat
A November 6, 2009 article on the exhibition Where were the Mothers? is at
Excerpts from The Meetings