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Making Something From Nothing

By  Lauren McLaughlin 2020 - 2021

‘Making Something From Nothing’ is a participatory project made in collaboration with eight Scottish single mothers during the coronavirus lockdown between March-June 2021. The participants were asked to post remnants of their everyday maintenance work in the form of discarded domestic materials (such as hoover dust, leaves, shopping receipts etc) which I turned into pulp and into individual sheets of handmade paper. The resulting paper was posted back to the participants along with a creative writing task asking them to reflect on their experiences during the pandemic. These writings were then returned to me and collectively re-pulped into 17 final sheets. The resulting ‘white paper’ is accompanied by a manifesto influenced by Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art (1969). The final sheets of paper and manifesto were posted out to various MSP’s, news and media corporations in June 2021, thus leaving nothing behind other than digital documentation and hope for systemic change.

The socio-economic disadvantage, social exclusion and stigmatisation faced by single mothers has been well documented in recent years and with a recent report finding that 80% of single parents have experienced discrimination within the areas of employment, government benefits, access to housing, fees and charges, and more recently, Covid-19 restrictions (Single Parents Rights Campaign 2021), the challenges faced by single mothers are wide ranging. Despite this, the voices of single mothers themselves remain strikingly absent from public discourse and contemporary culture (May 2010, Carroll 2017). Despite the fact that the overarching purpose of socially engaged practice is to increase access to art, create social change and advance cultural democracy (Matarasso 2019), there is a severe lack of engagement with single mothers in the arts too, despite their status as a socially excluded group. Making Something From Nothing is an attempt to highlight their continued exclusion.

This white paper calls for a post-pandemic society where single mothers are visible, valued and cared for. It is the blank page for a future manifesto be written upon. It is the starting point for us to ask; how do we create a post-pandemic society that cares for single mothers?

L M Lauren McLaughlin

Nobody's Free until Everybody's Free

War on Women

A Conflict of Interests

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