If Sigmund Freud were here, he would probably have a lot to say about Moynan King’s latest performance piece, Mothering.
But it’s probably also safe to say that King wouldn’t want to hear the old codger’s theories.
The Toronto-based artist has spent the past few days turning the back room of Zola’s Main Street café into a bedroom she plans to use to ‘mother’ passersby.
She’ll invite people into the room one at a time, have them don flannel nightshirts and hop into bed.
Then she’ll let the performance take its course.
Maybe she’ll read to them, brush their hair, make them tea or just listen to them talk.
“What ever they need,” she explains while sitting in the café’s backroom on Monday afternoon.
Beside her is a single bed fitted with a colourful quilt.
And on a nearby table Moynan has lined up the tools of the trade — books of bedtime stories, old board games, hand-knit blankets and swaths of flannel fabrics with patterns that look as if they’d been pulled from a happy childhood memory.
King plans to cut and sew the flannel into comfy nightshirts for people to don before jumping into the bed.
King calls it a “performance installation,” which places it somewhere between theatre and visual art.
And she’s surprised to hear that the piece might have a latent sexual connotation for some.
“Who knows? There are probably people who make money doing this kind of thing, and we’re doing it for free,” she says with a laugh.
For King the piece is about making a connection with her audience and bringing them onto the ‘stage’ with her.
“There’s been a long trend in modern art of deliberately alienating the audience,” says King.
“I think I’m reacting against that where I want to make intimate contact with my audience.
“It’s like they’re going on a trip with me.”
Local artists Nicole Bauberger and Brian Fidler will be adopting their own motherly personas to help King out with the piece.
It’s a female stereotype, but the role of mother is not exclusive to women, says King who has been producing gender-bending art for years at Toronto festivals and shows.
Being feminine is performed; it’s not something we’re born with, says King.
“Women are not born with high-heels and polished nails and make-up.
“There are elements that we learn and apply to ourselves almost like we would play a role — there’s costume, there are gestures and there are lines.”
King was at the Performance Creation Canada conference in Whitehorse last fall when she came up with the idea for Mothering.
“The discussion became very emotional for me and for everybody,” she says.
“I found myself feeling really sentimental about my mother and I had a strong longing for place and for a sense of belonging that I think a lot of people in our modern world lose.
“I started to think more and more about my mother and my disconnection to place.”
“My mother had four kids, but I remember her saying she had five because there was my father.
“I think we act out mothering in certain ways, whether we have children or not.”
“We mother our lovers; we mother our friends to a certain degree and even in my professional life I find I mother colleagues — I find myself advising and taking care of a lot of artists around me.”
She chose Zola’s because she wanted a public place with a lot of traffic and an incidental audience.
“This is really kind of out there in its own little world, but I’m really happy to be doing it like this.
“I like the idea of not preaching to the converted — it’s just here and people can take it as they wish.”
And the timing of the piece couldn’t be better, says Bauberger.
“It being the week leading up to the Games, I think there are fair number of people who would benefit from being put to bed, even if for 15 minutes.”
Get mothered at Zola’s Café Dore on Main Street at Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.