One of the strongest and still unbroken cultural taboos is the taboo of the mother rejecting her own child. Hence, the figure of the step-mother–antagonist, fundamental to numerous folk tales, is not merely an evil father’s wife, but rather a less poignant version of a mother repulsing her own child (most often, a daughter).
It is easier to accept harm dealt by an unrelated hand. When, however, the fabular rejection by the foster-mum–mother is customarily brought about by envy and symbolises, psychoanalytically conceived, emancipation of the Self, the child in Joanna Pawlik’s pieces is renounced simply due to his/her ‘faultiness’.
In her exhibition in Shefter Gallery, Joanna Pawlik, long involved in working with people with disabilities, distributes her tale of exclusion over several elements: videos and a cycle of lightboxes. In the story, the figure of “mother – mantis” multiplies and operates on three levels: the toxic mother, who destroys her own child; the matrix, or else the Motherland (a feminine equivalent of a Fatherland), who does not want the child; and Nature, who demands that the child departs.
The tale, based on true stories and performed by “actors playing themselves”, turns out to far more frightening than any, even the most somber, fable. It becomes a universal her story about every Other pushed beyond the system. A political manifesto. (No more and no less than) a directly delivered, perpetually necessary, call for equality.