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James R. Southard

first performed on June 16, 2019
Defibrillator’s Bubbly Creek Performance Art Assembly, Chicago, IL
performed once in 2019


Chicago, IL


In my performance titled “Seedbed,” I combined two childhood memories from my upbringing in Australia within an immigrant family household. A common sight growing up was witnessing my mother using her whole body to knead dough on the kitchen table to feed the family. When the dough was ready, my mother would put the dough in a large bowl and lead me and my siblings into my bedroom, placing the bowl on my bed while covering the bowl of dough with bed blankets. She would then shuffle me and my siblings out of the room, shutting the bedroom door behind us whispering, “Keep quiet! The dough is sleeping.” The fascination of the dough doubling in size while ‘sleeping’ always captivated me.

The other childhood memory I combined to create “Seedbed” is watching my mother boil up a big pot on the kitchen stove when she received a phone call stating that her father had passed away in Italy. She proceeded to put her clothes into the pot, one by one, to dye them black to wear over the coming year as a sign of mourning her father’s death, black being the colour of mourning in the Italian culture and the only time it is (was) seen appropriate to wear this color.

In “Seedbed,” I created 40 pounds of bread dough (the approximate weight I would have been when witnessing my mother dye her clothes as a sign of mourning) to place into a bowl that sat waiting on a single bed. Wearing a black Labour and Birthing Hospital Gown bought off Etsy, I walked away, leaving the dough to ‘sleep’ while it continued to perform for the public without the body present.

“Seedbed” references Vito Acconci’s 1972 performance of the same name, subverting, while reclaiming, the uterus as the ultimate seedbed. The remains of the performance were left in the gallery to ‘decay.’