Mali De-Kalo: 
Relaying #2: Testimonies on Motherhood Lost

October 18 – December 30, 2015


A site-specific video installation from Israeli artist Mali De-Kalo, focusing on the stories of women who have been rejected from their children's lives

In 2011, Mali De-Kalo, a multidisciplinary artist based in Tel Aviv, began collecting interviews with Middle Eastern women whose children have rejected them following the dismantling of the family unit: a divorce, a fall-out, or separation. Without sufficient agency, and under the negative influence of the other parent, these children have estranged themselves from their mothers.

De-Kalo spent three years speaking with the women who have suffered this trauma. With the help of two writers, she condensed her findings into vivid first-person monologues, four- to five-minute testimonies that reveal intense pain and sorrow. These are being read by performers and filmed in their own homes, to fully protect the identities of the mothers. This anonymity reflects the larger societal issues of the official and unofficial laws of motherhood and femininity.

The narrators, several of whom are gender activists who espouse collaborative acts through solidarity with women, volunteered their services in support of the mothers. As friends and colleagues of the artist, they participated in the Relaying series at her invitation out of a profound sense of empathy.

Relaying #2: Testimonies on Motherhood Lost is the second iteration of a previous work, Relaying #1: Testimonies on Motherhood Lost which first appeared at the Meadows Museum of Art in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2014. Both works are site-specific and part of a larger continuum. For this installation at Mana, De-Kalo expanded even further on her footage and stories, developing and modifying the narratives and spatial elements.  

An enormous projection of the eight women leads to the inner room, like a Greek chorus in contemporary clothing, each appearing briefly before vanishing, to be replaced by another. They stand in silence, mutely beckoning the viewer inside. At the inner gallery, their silence evolves into a story being told. The performances are timed not to overlap but to move from one video to the next. The stories sequence each other, drawing in the visitors who are now witnesses. Everything connects and loops into one, constantly evolving relay.

De-Kalo calls these disquieting stories “readymades” that she retrieves and reconstructs. Her narratives are real and scripted, factual and fabricated, and are meant to be regarded as such. The documentary, once categorized as reportage, now more often than not slips back and forth between the objective and subjective, the journalistic and the aesthetic. For De-Kalo, the act of telling the stories in Relaying is of critical importance, an “act between art and activism,” she says, offering solace, healing and perhaps, eventually, even justice.

The languages spoken in Relaying #2 are English, Hebrew, and Arabic. De-Kalo continues to collect testimonies, and as this project grows and finds new locations, the artist plans to introduce more languages and countries, expanding the relay as much as possible.


Press Release

Video stills from Relaying #2: Testimonies on Motherhood Lost