In 2004 I underwent surgery. During the operation my nipples were removed and re-positioned on my chest in order to ‘fix’ a body I’d outgrown. I had lived with a body that was left misshapen after being obese when I was younger, and the use of female hormones in my youth had left me with breasts. The surgery worked, but it rendered my nipples virtually numb, depriving me of immense erogenous pleasure.
In Malignant Mother I wanted to create a public display marking the transformation from one body to another and the ensuing sacrifice of pleasure by tattooing my nipples black. A string of fingernails was sutured to my naval by artist Fiona McGregor, representing the abject and a defilement of the imaginary bond to a shrouded m(other). Artist Zoo (Cath Davies) sat quietly on an elevated platform and occasionally squirted her breast milk on the audience.
I remained absolutely still throughout the performance. Like an anaesthetised patient, I was ‘acted’ upon. I was present yet removed, motionless through the excruciating pain of having my nipples tattooed, by Megan Oliver, while observed by a self portrait made prior to my surgery. My orchestration of the performance, and the material presence of my body, gave me principal authorship of this live work.
Through Malignant Mother I came to better understand my body as a medium which could be the site of transformation. I also came to appreciate pain as an experience capable of transforming us if we can overcome its grip.