Prologue: Training and Motherhood
I went through pregnancy and became a mother over the course of my MA Creative Practice degree, an experience that encouraged me to think about the meaning and character of training. This experience led to the Motherhood In/As Training film project as I wanted to explore the tension I felt between developing my creative practice and being a mother of a young child. In my first two films of the project – I don’t want to dance and 1, 2, 3… 4 – ‘training’ was conceived in opposition to ‘motherhood’. I began the project feeling there was a dichotomy between the two states: my training in dance required a physical body-mind dedicated solely to the creative work but motherhood meant that time and space were not exclusively at my own disposal. This was expressed in different ways in the two films, posted in May and July 2017. In the first film, I don’t want to dance, training was disrupted by the obligations and demands of motherhood, as my daughter, Lisa, pushed her way into the centre of my film. For the second film, 1, 2, 3… 4, motherhood challenged the temporality of training, as the film considered the notion that training is ‘for the future’ where motherhood is ‘for now’.
This project has progressed over seven months, during which I have interrogated an assumption that time and space for training can be achieved only in a specific environment and at the appropriate moment. The making of I’m right there and you’re there puts this assumption to the ultimate test: this film and essay is created in the turmoil of moving from one country to another, settling into a new place and adhering to a different daily rhythm. Creating the final film under these circumstances meant there was no choice but to be ‘in training’ and creative development in the times and spaces available with or without my daughter being present. As a consequence, I’m right there and you’re there steps out of the dichotomy of ‘training’ and ‘motherhood’: the oppositions and tensions I had conceived between them cease to be relevant when I learn that training and motherhood are interdependent and that they continuously co-exist in my everyday life.
I’m right there and you’re there
My final of the three films under the title Motherhood In/As Training has been created over an extended period of time due to my changing circumstances. I relocated in October 2017 from Leeds to Denmark (where I grew up) and I now live in Horsens with my daughter Lisa, to be joined after a time by Alan, my partner and Lisa’s father. The transition has brought up many questions for me about how I relate to the idea of ‘home’ – in the sense of belonging to a place but also belonging to a family, family being implicit in motherhood. The film seeks to define and to reflect on what home means when places and people must disconnect and then reconnect. And while the focus of the film is directed towards ‘home’ I learn that training is happening in every step of the process of making this film.
The Place of home
During the summer of 2017, during a holiday visit to Denmark when I was preparing for my definitive move, I tried to pinpoint places and times where home could be said to be present. Was it possible for me to define an area which was only home? Should our flat in Leeds or the place I was born be exclusively defined as home? Could my body, which is home to my dance training and yoga practice and was home to my daughter Lisa when I was pregnant with her, be the boundary of home? Or did ‘being home’ simply mean being with certain people, loved ones?
Cycling between home
I started the investigation for my film by cycling through Leeds and, later, Horsens in order to record ‘my’ cities. It became apparent, as I was enjoying the cycling, that I was less interested in arriving at places or landmarks and more curious about tracing the trajectories my body had made over the past years. What felt like home were the journeys that connected the destinations. I was tracing time, paying homage to the city by highlighting the ‘in-between’, connecting physically with the place by climbing hills, revisiting paths and negotiating traffic, by putting my body into the familiarity of cycling.
Home between other activities
The more I failed to trace a precise boundary of home, the more I came to describe home to myself as an experience less in its own right than as an interlude, a place that connects other activities – but that seemed to mean that home didn’t have its own space, didn’t even have its own time. Was home, therefore, failing to be seen or heard? I thought: perhaps if I started a dialogue with home, this could be a way to give home shape and to acknowledge its existence as an entity in itself? I wanted to address ‘home’ by speaking to it directly: Dear Home…
As I was figuring out how home could exist in its own right, I came to think of a moment I had been part of in a large group dance improvisation: this was a moment when all the participants were reluctant to be on the edge of the group. This phenomenon of preferring to move towards the middle of a structure was pointed out by science writer Philip Ball, who was witnessing the improvisation. He described how, in physics, edge positions are considered vulnerable as they always have to be ready for change. The molecules on the edge of a closed system (e.g. a drop of water) have high energy relatively to the molecules closer to the centre, leaving those near the surface more unstable then the ones in the middle (this is surface tension).
The image of the drop of water, and the idea that molecules are closed systems with a constantly shifting surface, helped me to clarify my relationship with home. I came to understand that perhaps home is not the absence of other activities, it is the sum of them, it is the sealing material that touches them all. The power of home is, in fact, that it accommodates all aspects of my life: its identity includes family, friends, my body, Leeds, Horsens, training, dance. It’s a system that joins those places, people and experiences together. This makes home malleable and in constant change.
Home: a system of falling
Training, like motherhood, relates to home in the way H2O relates to O2: they are different elements that serve different purposes (for us) yet they share a basic component. Motherhood presumes a devotion to being present with Lisa in everyday life, while training depends on a dedication to challenging the state of ‘knowing’, but they share the same foundation; both take place in my body, in Leeds, in Horsens and with friends and family. The changing circumstances of daily life mean that motherhood and training take turn being at the surface of my awareness even as they co-exist.
Home: an ecology of mutually determining relations
My investigation for the film started as an experiment on my bicycle in Leeds and Horsens as a sort of ‘training for’ the film itself. As the cycling footage features in the film, the ‘training for’ and the ‘outcome of’ the film are indistinguishable, and the edges between maker (me) and product (film) start to blur. The editing of the film, the writing about it and even the film itself as an outcome, form an ecology: a complex network that consists of numerous co-dependent and mutually determining relations. Motherhood and training are precisely co-dependent elements that, like molecules at the surface of the water drop, continuously meet and part and find new ways to co-exist. Like a group of people improvising together.
Home: the sealing material of the film
I shared the idea of writing a letter to home with my partner Alan (an academic who works on cinema) and he pointed me to the essay film Sans Soleil (1983) by Chris Marker. The script of Sans Soleil takes the form of letters which are narrated as voiceover by the woman who receives them. The beginning of the film came to inspire the format for I’m right there and you’re there. Its first minute shows two unrelated pieces of film footage with the following voiceover:
‘The first image he told me about was of three children on the road in Iceland in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images but it never worked. He wrote me:
‘One day I will have to put it all alone in the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader. If they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they will see the black’.’
The juxtaposition of two unrelated pieces of footage, which seem ‘irrelevant’ to each other, are linked together by the voiceover, asking the viewer to consider them as relational. I thought: are motherhood and training my two unrelated ‘pieces of footage’? When we are asked to ‘see the black’ we are invited to see the ‘in-between’, the sutures, that seal and stitch the film together. As I (re)watch and edit I’m right there and you’re there, I start to tune into the links between the cycling footage from Leeds and Horsens and the sutures in the editing in relation to the voiceover. These cuts are intended to bring to light the sealing material that touches all the other elements: home.
The opening of Sans Soleil gave me licence to include the footage that I really wanted to share, the footage that summarises how home feels, or how I feel home: a summer’s evening in a quiet garden with Alan watching Lisa on a swing. Lisa is in training in her appearances in all three films, using performance, dancing and balancing on a swing as a way of training to be in the world. These images link the works together with motherhood at the centre but with training as the underlying process that feeds and shapes the content of each of the films. I look back at the process of all three creations and observe that ‘training’ is happening in every moment of making the films. I train myself to develop a concept for the films, I train myself to film, to edit material, to write, and not least, how to make a ‘process of creating’ visible.
For more information about my work please go to http://www.mariehallagerandersen.weebly.com/
 I worked with choreographer Vanessa Grasse on dance and performance research project MESH in Leeds in July 2017. As part of the research process Vanessa had invited science writer Phillip Ball to respond to the working process with his theories of formations in nature, critical mass and nature as self-organising.