Irene Lusztig’s film The Motherhood Archives charts the hidden histories of childbirth in the twentieth century. For over five years, Lusztig assembled an archive of more than one hundred educational, industrial, and medical-training films. She then edited the footage into a narrative of efforts to discipline and control the bodies of pregnant women, from the first use of anesthetic ether in the nineteenth century to the contemporary hospital birthing suite. The Motherhood Archives will be screened as the closing night of the Flaherty NYC series That Obscure Object of Desire, programmed by Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Lusztig and Triple Canopy senior editor Sarah Resnick.
Material from Lusztig’s archive, which expanded to include home movies, photographs, government documents, training manuals, and handwritten memorabilia, were incorporated into her multimedia essay of the same name, published last year by Triple Canopy as part of its issue It Speaks of Others. “The Motherhood Archives” meditates on the medicalization and institutionalization of childbirth and motherhood, exploring, as Lusztig writes, how “each maternal-training film is, at its core, a film about maternal ideology—a prescriptive roadmap for correct, successful, and scientifically endorsed maternal behaviors.”
- Irene Lusztig is a filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz.
- Flaherty NYC is a seasonal screening series that presents innovative and groundbreaking films followed by discussions with the makers on aesthetics, the production process, and the challenges of the work. Flaherty NYC stands apart from other screening series in that it exposes audiences to filmmakers whose work deserve more attention as well as more discourse.
- Sarah Resnick has published in n+1, Bookforum, Art in America, BOMB, and Triple Canopy, where she was previously an editor. Her writing was selected for 2017’s Best American Essays and for the 2019 Pushcart Prize. She lives in New York.