By Hanne Hagenaars

‘Henri is one year old. He is lying on the ground in a soiled nappy; he is screaming. His mother’s heels can be heard clicking as she walks back and forth through the tiled room, searching for her bra and dress. She is afraid of being late for her date that evening. That little thing lying there on the tiles, screaming, full of shit, is driving her crazy. She too starts to scream. Henri’s screaming doubles in volume. Then she leaves.’ (Michel Houellebecq)

Old-fashioned school maps hung freely in space or on the wall during Olga Balema’s exhibition Motherland. The old-fashioned maps are full of details whose truth has long since lapsed. Borders have changed, lands have ceased to exist and coal hasn’t been mined for ages. Everyone who takes a moment to look back in time realises that there is nothing permanent about nationality, yet still we cling to it, like our final lifebuoy.

The world is continually changing. Balema obliterated the maps with several layers of paint and then pasted them with a grimy latex, now it has latex breasts hanging limply earthwards. The mother country is exhausted. The breasts are shrivelled; they won’t be producing any more milk. One’s father country is the place where one was born and raised, the country of origin. A father’s country is linked to nation and patriotism. The name mother country is linked to colonies, places to which we should never have gone and which should be receiving care. But the mother country often fails to deliver, takes more than it gives. Yes, the soft, caring mother country is but a dream. Or there are mothers who give and give until they are completely exhausted.
‘Experience is the mother of wisdom’;
‘Failure is the mother of success’;
‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’;
and ‘Motherfucker’.
The future looks bleak for the father country and the mother country.

“The opposition between inside and outside, between eater and eaten, is not reciprocal, but culminates in a process of ingestion that ultimately transforms our identity. Reproduce and keep making more, more for more, more, more, more, sucking, taking everything we need from another human being, pissing on our patches so no one else can lay there, sucking from our mothers and all they can do is stay there, a nipple giving life and then we send it off to day-care. Debasing women for their reproductive powers, conceptualizing the earth as a mother, Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother Land, Mother Tongue, fear, worship, abuse.’ (Juliette Blightman)