Petra Mrša

New School

Rehearsing Family

How can well-established intimate relationships – whose members are lulled in their passive, all too familiar, apathetic roles – change? How can these roles be challenged without the inclusion of the existing system of knowledge? If knowledge, as M. Foucault and J. Butler explain, can be changed with direct experiences, then knowledge about oneself and others involved in an intimate relationship can be questioned through activities that are different from all the previously shared activities which generated the existing system of knowledge. Wanting to examine the power of direct experiences, I decided to create new situations in a community where I have established the most deeply-rooted relationships – my nuclear family – by asking every member to engage in some previously untried activity with the rest of us. Which activities are considered normal enough to be shared within a modern family? We do not work together anymore, knowledge is no longer handed down from generation to generation (but through the media and institutions); family celebrations have been reduced to three gluttonous meals per year with no song or dance. This is all accepted as a normal order of things in which we, as biological beings, become social ones; we should feel as if we belonged to this community as complete individuals (and not just partially, with the sense of belonging defined by the function we fulfil). How can we have a sense of belonging to a group with which we share such a small range of activities? In my wish to discover some new practices and “rehearse” the feeling of family, we took a trip together where I gained new and significant experiences with the members of my family whom I’ve known over 30 years.