I Am Now You – Mother

In the photographic series entitled I Am Now You – Mother (2017), Marcia Michael visualises the act of matrilineage through the body of her late mother, Myrtle McKnight.

Introduced by, Renée Mussai, Curator

An exercise in what I call ‘ancestral visual feminitude’, this intimate conversation between mother and daughter is unsettling in its revelatory rawness, and enlightening in its affirmative and courageous offering. By adapting the principles of ‘call and response’ as her visual methodology, Michael opens a photographic dialogue which aims to retrieve lost or reimagined narratives of her matrilineal ancestry – foregrounding the daughter’s ability to recover and visualise history from her mother’s memory. Through their respective bodies, mother and daughter engage in their ‘dialogue of matrilineage’: Michael’s call for historical understanding and her mother’s response permitting the search to be mediated through her body.

We search for our mothers in order to find ourselves. The black mother is the instrument and embodiment of history. My mother is ‘The Object of My Gaze’. My desire is to recover a visual and aural narrative of my matrilineal history and reunite the present with the past. The body, my mother’s body, is all of histories.” – Marcia Michael

Many of the photographs’ titles reference partus sequitur ventrem, a Latin phrase meaning ‘that which is brought forth follows the womb’. Here Michal evokes a historical law that once decreed that the condition or social status of the mother is inherited by the child, making the mother both maker and marker of history.

This solo exhibition also features an installation of large wallpapers of Michael’s landscape images entitled Home – Jamaica (2017), and the video Remembering You Remember Me, where Myrtle McKnight is presented in five simultaneous frames, each retelling the birth of her child. The layered, poly-vocal sound of her uncensored maternal voice creates a powerful and disorientating effect, recovering the history of a matrilineal memory through moving image.

The exhibition includes a selection of works from Marcia Michael’s multidisciplinary project The Object of My Gaze (2015–17).  Images: © Marcia Michael. Text by Renée Mussai.

I Am Now You – Mother

on display until 7 July 2018

Autograph gallery
Rivington Place

Established in 1988, Autograph is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights.


The Exhibition

Marcia Michael

Marcia Michael (b.1973) is a London-based artist. She dedicates her artistic practice to the wide and ever-changing parameters of the black family album, depicting black British life in a highly personal approach. I Am Now You – Mother continues her ongoing exploration of matrilineal lineage; a process she began with The Study of Kin in 2009. Her work has twice been selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and recently featured in the journal MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. She is currently studying for a practice-based PhD in photography at University of Arts London (UAL). Michael was the 2015 Artist in Residence at the Autograph ABP/ Light Work residency in Syracuse, NY.