Mothers, Daughters and Cryptophores

Research output: Contributions to conferencesPaperpeer-review



This paper explores our particular relation to the maternal figure in terms of cryptonymy (examining words that hide) and cryptophores (bearers of secrets), as defined by Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok. Secrets play a significant part in consolidating mother-daughter relationships, especially when mediated by some kind of death or disappearance. The secrets these women carry have to be dealt with privately from within the mother-daughter relationship; public confession is not possible. 

In order to articulate the unspoken, we will perform a dialogic text-with-image work, Repli (fold or small circuit), that which repeatedly provokes a reply. As a methodological tool, our Repli seeks to engage with mothers, and the mothers of mothers. Embraced by this piece, the figure of three grand[m]others makes an indexical link with the lived body through its trace - silhouette, shadow, photograph. Writing back and forth, creating a folded structure that recalls the drawing-folding game exquisite corpse, our dialogue, as daughters with mothers, initiates a search for whatever is secreted within these folds. The gap left is an outline of the figure sought. Apprehended by being traced, through drawing and by photographic means, the figure is re-positioned between an originating present and the moment of marking. The m[other] here is performed, not represented, in an act of retrieval.

Referencing Anne Brody’s exhibition Lost Mother, which documents the effects of maternal loss on teenage daughters, we acknowledge the possibility also of inherited loss, the gap inherited through one’s mother. In seeking the lost mother an other is evoked, a sort of blueprint that prefigures the mother sought. In this context we explore Pedro Almodovar’s film Volver, a title that can be translated as to return, like the repressed, and in which the mother is a ghost. Our work will provide a voice for the intensity borne by carrying secrets, the anxiety they create but also the hope, comfort and agency they convey. It will operate as a confession, an acknowledgement that can be maintained, suspended, taken back and forth, folding time and bringing the past and potential futures into a present performance.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 1 Jun 2015
EventMotherhood and Creative Practice - London South Bank University, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Jun 20152 Jun 2015


ConferenceMotherhood and Creative Practice
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address