That old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” still holds today. But what doesn’t is that idea of the village itself. When local artist Danielle Hatch became a new mom, she soon found that her fellow villagers hadn’t actually disappeared. They’d just relocated … to the Internet.
“Mom blogs” have taken off as both a forum for women to express their struggles with motherhood and as a means to help one another. The complex world of mom blogs inspired Hatch’s new exhibit, “Motherboard,” at the Saranac Art Projects, where she explores the phenomenon more deeply.
She knows because she’s an avid mom blog reader herself. Hatch, 28, explains that these blogs cover the spectrum — from purely informational parenting advice, to tips on what to do on a rainy day or even good books to read. Others are more glamorous and highly stylized, with professional-quality photos and content. All of them, however, open a door into the intimate lives of the families they represent.
On the one hand, they help mothers play out the ages-old practice of community parenting. On the other, they can further a darker “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality in mothers.
“You’re sort of voyeuristically peering into this person’s life, [and there are] people who check them religiously every day,” says Hatch. “So there are these feelings of admiration as you peer into these people’s homes and also jealousy.”
Hatch’s exhibit reflects that compulsion to watch: Across the gallery floor she has laid foil — mimicking a circuit board — that leads to the center of the space. There Hatch has erected a four-foot-tall house made of particleboard. Viewers are invited to tap into that voyeuristic side of mom blogs by peering into the home. Inside, a computer reads content from these blogs while source code from the corresponding blog is projected on the pristine white interior walls of the house.
The source code is an important element of the exhibit. As Hatch sees it, this is the building block of the mom blog phenomenon. Looking at the blogs and the code that make them is essential in thinking “about the specifics of what it actually is — that it is just this numbers and this code that exists,” says Hatch. “But it’s also this projection of ourselves.”
The idea that mothers have control over these projections they create is also an important element. In some ways, this code on a website has allowed them to achieve, at least in some respects, their vision of a perfect life.
“Blogs are so available, you really don’t have to know anything about computers to create this digital realm for yourself,” says Hatch. “If you’ve got a camera, your home can appear like an Anthropologie catalog.”
When those moms might blog, Hatch built the exhibit. With three children, ages four months to three-and-a-half years old, it’s been a challenge.
“I had grad school professors who were like … as soon as you have kids, your work is going to go to pot, basically. And I totally dismissed them,” says Hatch as she bounces her giggling four-month-old son, Lachlan, on her lap. “But it is tough on your time and resources, for sure. To maintain that part of yourself as an artist, at least physically producing things — I feel like I have a lot of time to germinate ideas, but it’s tougher to execute them at this point.”
“Motherboard” is going to mean very different things to different people. For mothers, it’s a quirky look into a familiar world. But in general, Hatch’s exhibit provides an interesting commentary on this curious bit of cultural evolution — the ways men and women are re-learning to be parents in a technological age.
“We have a desire to communicate with one another, and living in a suburban house, the neighborhood is not built for really connecting with people,” says Hatch. “Especially at the motherhood time in your life when you’re home so much, it’s nice to be able to have a connection. Just to feel that connection, I think it’s meaningful.”
“Motherboard” • Jan. 6-28 • Open Thurs from 12-5pm, Fri- Sat from 12-8 pm • Saranac Art Projects • 25 W. Main Ave. • saranacartprojects.wordpress.com