Modern Mother

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1998
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In Modern Mother storytelling is both the subject of the piece, as well as its form of delivery. Stamp conducted audio interviews with her mother in 1995, literally asking, “Tell me a story about your life.” What her mother tells is not a story but rather a series of stories, or fragments of stories, that make up the narrative of her life. The tales, like all family tales, reveal emotionally charged secrets: the dream to dance on stage, the experience of molestation, an abortion gone awry. The user can only access these stories by entering into a closet, the space where secrets are hidden. And it is the user who decides how much to hear. Do you want to know more about “D is for dream,” “H is for Hell,” or “O is for oozing”? The choice is yours. Stamp provides a cultural context to these very personal stories by juxtaposing them against the popular music of her mother’s era: pop culture representations of a romanticized life of love, intimacy, and family.

Modern Mother borrows from the long tradition of women’s personal documentary, particularly those in which a woman searches to understand the life of her mother, her relationship to it, and, through that process, her own life. By using an interactive form, Stamp drives home the idea that we can only understand someone else’s life story through fragments and that what we hear is, in part, determined by us. The stories are told to Stamp (the daughter) and we (the viewers) in bits and pieces. The narrative revealed is created in the space between storyteller and story listener.

(Source: Michelle Citron, in "START HERE>: An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Electronic Literature)

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Scott Rettberg