The Australian artist Tracey Moffatt developed the eight videos in her Montages series with editor Gary Hillberg, her long-time collaborator, between 1999 and 2015. In each work, Moffatt weaves together scenes from popular media that relate to a particular theme, often calling attention to archetypes and the dynamics of personal relationships. She has called them ‘hymns to cinema’.
Mother begins with an audio clip, a voice pleading, ‘mother, oh, God, mother’. The short video scenes that follow, pulled from fictional films and television shows, alternate between comedy, tragedy, and everyday interactions between mothers and children. The clips balance poignant, tender connections with more loaded exchanges—women and their children, especially their daughters, imposing their will or assigning blame, protecting or threatening one another. Several mother characters leave their children, while other pairs reconcile; occasionally, dramatic music swells in the background, heightening the scenes’ drama as well as their artifice.
Mother samples films and television to tap into universal human currents, consciously concentrating and repackaging a range of stories using filmic tropes. As in other works in the series, Moffatt approaches the material as a devoted fan of cinema, even as the overall effect of the montage remains ambiguous.
Tracey Moffatt (b. 1960, Australia) draws inspiration from what she calls her ‘memory bank’–amélange of films watched, books read, and photographs viewed, as well as life experiences–and then filters them through her imagination, resulting in works that hover somewhere between reality, memory, and a dream. Imbued with heightened emotion and drama, Moffatt’s photographs and moving images often explore the themes of Australia’s colonial history, imbalances of power, sexuality, racial politics, and contemporary social issues.