Ruth Barker

And The Three Mothers Ask: Don't You Know Me?

Clonlea Studios, Dublin
3 Mothers Dublin 3 Mothers Dublin 3 Mothers Dublin

Performance: Running Time 15 minutes approx. Garment design and production by Lesley Hepburn.

The text was memorised, and recited as a spoken word performance by the artist.

Photography by Eoin Kirwan, courtesy of Teresa Gilespie and Rose Lejeune (Portrait of Space)

This performance was developed as a response to a residency at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies (CIAS) in Newcastle, and was recontextualised for the project Portrait of Space, Dublin, curated by Teresa Gilespie and Rose Lejeune.


Portrait of Space is both an exhibition and a seminar. It will bring together a group of artists, curators and theorists to participate in a ‘living’ project concerned with the politics of space. A concern that includes the frameworks through which art is made, displayed and disseminated.

Over three days, Portrait of Space will inhabit the indoor and outdoor spaces of Clonlea Studios, a suburban idyll south of Dublin City. The aim is to produce a dynamic space where audiences, participants and works can meet in a communally constructive manner. Participants will add to and change the environment through installation, performance, intervention and presentation, but also through the interweaving of group discussion. The context of the venue, content of the work and modes of presentation will all feed into the debate, promoting a swing between active participation and critical engagement. The project is an open process, inviting the public to come and go, to take part in discussions, timetabled events and view the works displayed.

Portrait of Space asks how we understand and describe space; how we navigate, interrupt, produce and reproduce its multiple forms. It is an investigation into possible ways of re-negotiating the gap between object and subject, making and speaking; between artist, art work and audience. How can we evade the hierarchy of one or the other and engage in the relationship between them? How can we give space for their differences while acknowledging similarities and interdependence? Portrait of Space seeks to emphasise the extent to which politics of space are implicated throughout the art making and presenting process, and the importance in re-imagining those politics for contemporary practice.

- Introduction to the project Portrait of Space by Teresa Gillespie and Rose Lejeune.

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And The Three Mothers Ask: Don’t You Know Me?

(repeated 3 times, in different registers, at points around the room.)



I know you.

I know all of you.

I believe I’ve met you all before – don’t you know me?


O, a song of greeting,

Song of almost recognition,

Song of comfort and combustion and

Some half remembered things

That I can give to you,

These things I gift to you – don’t you know me?



O You were forwarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

In the Holiday Inn

The time you overslept.

I was there.

Don’t you know me?


O You were forwarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

The night your son left home

It was October

I was there.

Don’t you know me?


O You were forwarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

When your eyes closed on the Metro.

It was only for a moment

I was there.

Don’t you know me?


O You were forwarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

In the hospital

When the lights stayed on all night.

I was there.

Don’t you know me?



O don’t you know me?

No No No No No,

You don’t know me

Do you?



I’m running water

I’m falling water

I’m touching water

I’m touching ripe fruit

I’m touching cut grass

I’m touching new corn

I’m touching baked bread

I’m touching nursing

I’m touching low like a fish

I’m touching soft like a belly

Touching round like sanctuary

Touching upright, on a wicker chair

I’m holding something in my hand. Right now.


I am your mother. I am braided and strong.

I am your mother’s mother. I am braided and strong.

I am the always, ever mother. I am braided and strong.

I am the mother of your children. I am braided and strong.

I am only a song, and I am braided. I am braided, and I am strong


So cut the crusts off your Hovis today.

Put your feet into the water today.

Pour the milk onto your cereal today.

Eat your little pre-rolled sushi today.

And lie down in your bath

With your Radox

Reading your new magazine

It is good, and the pages are glossy...


So now you know.

You were forwarned in a dream.


I think you owe me.

Don’t you think you know me, now?