Lucy Beech’s new work 'Me and Mine' is a 40-minute film which will premiere at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, from 2 May – 5 July, before travelling to Tetley, Leeds, from 16 July – 27 September. This is her most significant solo show to date.
In the words of Lucy Beech’s new film 'Me and Mine', empathy – the compassionate attempt to see the world through another’s eyes – is ‘a kind of penetration, a travelling’. When you enter someone else’s pain, it’s ‘like you enter a country’. Death, like empathy, is often spoken of as a transition: a journey into the unknown.
In 'Me and Mine', Beech examines how the so-called feminine ‘virtues’ of empathy and relationality have gained increasing currency within previously patriarchal industries. Set between a traditional undertaker’s and an annual award ceremony defined by one of its visitors as the ‘nucleus of the funeral industry’s female revolution’, the film follows a central, female protagonist as she negotiates her experience as a woman amongst women. Though still dominated by men, as the starched collars and polished black hearses of the film’s opening scenes remind us, the funeral industry is changing. Women are increasingly coming to the fore, challenging outdated traditions and mobilising a particular brand of feminist discourse in order to intervene in the sacrosanct space of the funeral parlour.
Ostensibly a study of the cultural and economic forces surrounding the business of death, 'Me and Mine' is more deeply concerned with ideas of transition: between social groups; private and public worlds; tradition and innovation; individuals and communities; the self and the other. Deeply concerned with the ways in which women construct and sustain communities, often in explicit opposition to patriarchy, 'Me and Mine' investigates how the rhetoric of ‘inclusion’, ‘empathy’ and ‘care’ can reinforce an essentialist view of gender. As one of the film’s female characters puts it, referring to women in general: ‘We are the natural carers, aren’t we?’
Beech interrogates the presumptions that frame this collective ‘we’, and questions the basis of this ‘knowledge’. By mobilising affect in opposition to discourse, Me and Mine is a surprisingly life-affirming film about death. Dying is not the end of life, but a catalyst for its ceaseless reorganisation or renewal.
Harris Museum opening hours:
Mon: 11am - 5pm
Tues – Sat: 10am - 5pm
Closed Sundays & Bank Holidays
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella (FVU), with the support of Harris Museum & Art Gallery, The Tetley, The Fenton Arts Trust, The Elephant Trust and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. With thanks to Open School East. FVU is supported by Arts Council England.