Over their Own responds to 19th century photographic studio portraits of infants held steady by a hidden figure. Due to lengthy exposure times these portraits required the presence of a veiled mother or caregiver to maintain the stillness of the child. Through the immersive assemblage of video, sound and photographic iterations Over their Own studies motherhood through three characters: mothers holding their veiled child, the artist’s mother and actor Michele Smith, and Addie Bundren, the fictional character from William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying (1930). The first piece consists of a series of film portraits and a grid of photographs made from their very projection that reverse the 19th century photographic process by veiling the child. While the films explore the women’s dual role as individuals and mothers, statically posing for the camera and carefully tending to their agitated child, the photographs collapse time, blurring the child in motion and revealing the mother. The second piece assembles two videos, one portraying Michele Smith posing in a studio and the other her personal copy of William Faulkner’s novel. The latter records the book, after the artist has closed and positioned it on its spine, systematically opening on the five pages of the chapter titled “Addie” and stressing the relationship developed between the individual and the character. Finally, a soundtrack isolating Michele Smith’s inhalations from her theater performance of Addie’s monologue accompanies the imagery to emphasize this dual role.
She lived, a lonely woman, lonely with her pride, trying to make folks believe different, hiding the fact that they just suffered her, because she was not cold in the coffin before they were carting her forty miles away to bury her, flouting the will of God to do it. Refusing to let her die in the same earth with those Bundrens.
-William Faulkner, "As I Lay Dying" (23-24)