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, 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 (Dr. C. Davies) sat quietly on an elevated platform and occasionally squirted their 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.