Mathilde Benignus

Editor : Est-Nord-Est, résidence d'artistes
Location : Saint-Jean-Port-Joli
Year : 2023
Language : French / English
Author : Galadriel Avon

Artist and author

Mathilde Benignus

Displayed in Mathilde Benignus’s studio, the books Faire famille autrement (Gabrielle Richard, 2022) and Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation (Sophie Lewis, 2022) give an idea of her current reflections. Over her eight-week residency, she has picked them up and moved them, having their transversalities respond to each other. Little by little, they have shifted from the work table to the reading table, a migration testifying to their private transition. These books inform research that is at once artistic, personal, social, and conceptual: like Benignus’s approach, they are eminently political and address the thin edge between public and private.

Benignus tells stories that are usually documentary or strongly inspired by reality. Recently, she collected alternative models for forming families, which she considers not visible enough in the social landscape. So, she went to meet with people who, like her, choose to rethink the normed, traditional parameters of parenthood. Through her conversations, she gathered narratives by queer people who reinvent the conventional structure of couple with child – single parents, transgender people who experiment with constructing a family, throuples with children, and individuals whose offspring are raised collaboratively with a few friends – and by artists who are mothers who understand the daily challenges engendered by their position as women, with children, working in the art field. This process has led Benignus, along with others, to wonder about the avenues that exist on the margins of how we imagine kinship ties. These encounters, most of them conducted before the residency, form the basis for her reflections and allow her to inscribe her creation in resonance with their stories, to better reflect (herself), speak (herself), address (herself). How can one be a mother and an artist? And how can these new models be represented?

At Est-Nord-Est, in her creative space, Benignus evokes reformulated narratives. Woodcut prints appear: the models that have been discussed are finally materialized. Through her imagery, at the intersection of dream and tarot, she organizes an encounter with her weighty questions about “making family” that have recently become more and more significant. Her figurations become attempts to multiply and update representations of kinship structures. They contribute to the building of an open narrative that connects Benignus to both her fears and her ambitions, then to the anxieties and hopes observed among her peers. In her woodcuts, she exhibits, in spite of everything, her wish to construct, conveying the urgency of her desire and showing the future that is being traced out.