Day 2: Ceci n’est pas une mère*

By Sofie Henningsen

Day 2 foto

The atmosphere is different today, when the shutters go up at the box at Gammel Torv. The weather is hot and the square is even more crowded than the first day with people enjoying their ice creams or taking a break from shopping.

A young girl with a pair of pink pants and a light green summer top is appearing in the box as the shutters go up. Small colourful plastic balls are covering the floor and a hula hoop and a small plastic chair are placed in the corner. She is dancing with her hips in circles with her headphones on looking at the people walking towards the box. Party music flows out of the box. The people in the square stop and look intensively at her big belly with a serious look on their faces. It seems quite disturbing for the walking flow in the shopping street. A big group of guided tourists simply stop walking. Some Danish teenage boys say: “Hallo, how old is she!? 13 or 14?!”. They are not sure what they are looking at. Some of their friends suggest, that the girl might be a robot or a doll. They check the Ipod wire to see if the girl is on power as she continues her dancing movements. One of the other boys shouts: “It is not a robot – she just looked at me!”.

Many people go straight to the signs with the text of today to get an explanation of what they are experiencing. It seems like they feel the need to be confirmed or denied in what they are seeing. They read the text closely. A father and his daughter are reading the text to each other and discuss the average age for Danish first time mothers. “Oh it was 22, when you where young, dad. Now it is 29.” They do not seem disturbed by the girl dancing with the belly. Two men, probably senior citizens, arrive: “Oh, here we have a little pregnant girl. Well that is good, because we do not give birth to enough children, they say“. The other man goes closer to read the text: “It says that she is not pregnant”, referring to the text “This is not a mother”. Some people in the audience are sure of the opposite: “She is soon giving birth. She is in her eight month. I can see that”. The girl in the box sits down on the plastic chair to rest. Some boys react on that. “Is she giving birth now? What if she is giving birth now?

A young Russian woman is very curious to know more about the art installation and the context. She does not seem to be that disturbed by the young girl in the box. In Russia the average age for first time mothers is 20, she tells, often because of socio economic circumstances. “We should do this in Russia (referring to the art installation)… Even though she looks a bit young, the girl will be happy anyway, because she is going to have a child.“

More people arrive: “This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen in my life!”. Several discuss whether it is a campaign against abortion or a campaign for the freedom to chose. “This is a weird commercial.” Others say: “This is child labour, it is!”. Some women are shaking a bit on the way out of the crowd. Groups of young boys and girls come back several time during the day with their friends. They express that they feel freaked out, when the girl looks at them smiling calmly and confidently. When the shutters go down later in the evening some young people look a bit troubled. They knock carefully on the shutters. When it opens again the girl with the belly is lying still on the floor of the small colourful plastic balls. The audience is quiet as they crowd around the glass box. They stay with a serious look on their faces until the shutters go down for good.


Ceci n’est pas une mère*
Since the contraceptive pill became available in Denmark in 1966, the age at which women have children has increased. Nowadays, women have the possibility of planning their career first and securing themselves a solid financial future before they allow themselves to listen to their biological signals.

Today, the average age for Danish first time mothers is 29. In 1966 it was 22. The view that young mothers generally have lower educational levels, have less stable relationships and are more likely to have a socio-economic disadvantage is increasingly prevalent. However, the risk of genetic disorders in the child increases as the mother’s age increases. The quality of breast milk diminishes noticeably.

* This is not a mother

Ceci n’est pas une mère
Siden p-pillen blev indført i Danmark i 1966, er gennemsnitsalderen for fødende kvinder steget. I dag har kvinder mulighed for at planlægge deres karriere og sikre sig en solid økonomisk fremtid, før de begynder at lytte til deres biologiske signaler.

I dag er gennemsnitsalderen for danske førstegangsfødende 29. I 1966 var den 22. Der er en fremherskende idé om, at unge mødre generelt har lavere uddannelse, mere ustabile forhold og er socio-økonomisk udfordrede. Dog øges risikoen for genfejl hos barnet i takt med, at morens alder stiger. Modermælkens kvalitet forringes ligeledes betydeligt.

* Dette er ikke en mor

READ MORE about the Metropolis Festival and the artist Dries Verhoeven’s concept of “Ceci n’est pas” in this background article or on Københavns Internationale Teaters webpage.  Also check out the newspaper articles in Berlingske and Politiken