context
serena lee
affinities
practice
Published in 'What is Left? What is Right?'
edited by Christina Battle
Forest City Gallery
London, Ontario
2017


"I had thought about doing this for a few years after a passing comment from a curator about her mother made me realize that I'd never really talked with anyone else about being the daughter of a single mom, or about being a single mom.

So far, I have visited fourteen women: five in London and nine in Toronto. I started in May and it is now September. Each visit is different for many reasons. Some women I meet for the first time when I arrive at their door, some are acquaintances or friends of friends, and a few I have known for over ten years. Some homes I reach by bicycle, some on foot, some by car. Their homes are different sizes, types, styles, values. Sometimes the kids are there, or they’ve just left, or a cat, a dog, a partner, or a friend, sitting on the porch, but often they are alone. There are plastic tumblers, wine glasses, leftovers, cat food, crockpots, water bottles, and containers decorated with name stickers for summer camp. Most of these women have dishwashers—we didn't—but I wash whatever dishes are there (or re-pot a plant, or put up a shelf) and listen to whatever they want to tell me. Each visit lasts between one and two hours depending on how much there is to wash and where the conversation goes. Sometimes we drink tea or root beer and keep talking.

A friend asks: what is the one thing that connects these visits, these women, their experiences? If I had to pick, it would be something about choice, but as a question or a ratio or a flickering, foggy compass, for now."
Participatory research and performance project (ongoing)

In the context of 'What is Left? What is Right?' exhibition and publication curated by Christina Battle with Jenna Faye Powell
Forest City Gallery
London, Ontario
2017
Doing the dishes
Documentation of performance at Forest City Gallery, 2017
Photo credit: Margaret Kwan

I tell fragments of stories from the conversations over dishes, drawing a messy family tree with ink on cellophane, screened with an overhead projector.
This is followed by a public conversation with Kirsty Robertson, writer and contemporary art historian, professor at the University of Western Ontario and daughter of a single mom, based in London, Ontario.
[LIST OF KEYWORDS]

survival
expression
care
choices
'by choice'
risk
mess
avoidance
compassion
patience
honesty
vulnerability
fragility
mortality
isolation
behavioural patterns
remembrance
resentment
forgiveness
our narratives
projecting
compartmentalising
obliviousness
immaturity
anxiety
appreciation
praise
recognition
discipline
disappointment
admitting you need help
nothing fitting
no one bothering to ask
permission
de-centre-ing yourself
loss
healing
control
safety
solitude
distance
buying stuff
spending time
having an example
setting an example
dedication
unconditional love
trust
manipulation
dependence
dependability
(not) having friends close
(not) having family close
validation
having the right words
reassurance
being capable
inheritance
trauma
accessing resources
every year
every week
every other weekend
names
mother tongue
what is 'normal'
not sure what to call her
chance
change