Dafna Maimon at Künstlerhaus Bremen

Artist: Dafna Maimon

Exhibition title: Mutating Mary

Curated by: Nadja Quante

Venue: Künstlerhaus Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Date: September 21 – November 17, 2019

Photography:  all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Künstlerhaus Bremen

Note: Exhibition text can be found here

This autumn Künstlerhaus Bremen is showing a solo exhibition of the artist Dafna Maimon. Maimon’s artistic practice includes performances, videos, installations and situations. Her works engage incorporated social norms and cultural codes, which she playfully explores and deconstructs through grotesque exaggerations. In her solo exhibition, Mutating Mary, Maimon creates an absurd scenario that combines the historical figure of Mary Mallon (1869–1938), alias “Typhus Mary,” reproductive ideologies and the idea of “viral” infection in an immersive installation. The exhibition is the continuation of a performance entitled Wary Mary, which was performed in August 2019 at the Tieranatomisches Theater in Berlin. For Künstlerhaus Bremen, Maimon translates this “choreography of infection” into an installation comprising sculptures, costumes, drawings, text and sound. Infectious body parts penetrate the gallery, while drawings, costumes, texts and sounds bear witness to the development of past events.

Maimon questions reproductive ideologies and motifs of female care by exaggerating physical and mental states, tearing them out of their social context. The artist focuses on various aspects that determine the social perception of female bodies: pregnancy, birth, female care and care work. Maimon explores pregnancy as a metaphor and how our society deals with the issue of motherhood, the pressure to reproduce and images of the female body.

As part of her artistic research and personal examination of the subject of motherhood, the artist consulted Orna Donath’s sociological study, Regretting Motherhood (2016), Sheila Heti’s novel Motherhood and Rachel Cusk’s biographical account of her first year as a mother, A Life’s Work. The publications bring taboo sides of motherhood to the table.

Another point of reference for Maimon’s installation is the story of Mary Mallon, or “Typhoid Mary,” who became known in the tabloid press as “the most harmless and yet most dangerous woman in America” around 1900 because she infected her fellow human beings as an unaffected carrier of typhoid. Mallon emigrated from Ireland to the USA in 1883. As a cook, she unwittingly infected those she cared for and was finally sent to an isolation ward by the health authorities until the end of her life. It was the first known case of asymptomatic typhus in the USA and had a far-reaching impact on scientific research into the spread and diagnosis of disease. For Maimon, Mallon’s story serves as a prelude to a speculative exploration of various dimensions of infection and attributions of the female body. Mallon is one of many Marys in Maimon’s new work who threatens public order through disobedience.

In her exhibition at Künstlerhaus Bremen, Maimon abducts the visitors into a cave in which the setting is both depiction and projection. The figures represented are the protagonists of a narrative that unfolds around the character of Mary, a many-headed woman. Mary’s thoughts, memories and dreams are linked to the stories of other Marys, while pregnant bodies incorporating feelings, fears and desires encircle her.

In the expansive installation, Mutating Mary, Maimon creates an emotional landscape and space for critical examination in which humor – like in Greek drama – is applied as a means for catharsis.

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Spread the Word, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Eulogy for You Dangerous Woman, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Research: We Know, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Truly Unacceptable Ladies, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Tongue Twister, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Tongue Twister, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Inner Marys, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Inner Marys, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Inner Marys, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Ragging It (Ibuprofen Scene), 2019 and Realization Relief, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Dafna Maimon: Birthing Something Other, 2019 and Grown Gums, 2019, Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

Exhibition view, Dafna Maimon: Mutating Mary, Künstlerhaus Bremen 2019, Photo: Fred Dott

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