Other Orchards is a body of work I made during my senior year at Bard College. When I started this project, I thought of it as a research project. I was researching 19th Century concepts of hysteria and specifically how hysteria was largely associated with women who had interests outside the domestic sphere. Activities such as walking and reading could indicate hysteria, the cure for which was bed rest. I was struck by how walking and reading seemed very normal to me, but bed rest would certainly drive me mad; basically, diagnosing someone as hysterical was another way to keep women tied to a gender normative social structure.
I was also researching cultural rights and thinking about how many cultures have amazing rituals they do around important life events like birth, death, and marriage. I was thinking about how these rituals allow whimsy and magic into everyday life – and how in our culture, we tend to see these events as moments of potential profit. I was imagining my work as making up new rites, but without explaining explicitly what they were for. It wasn’t until my mother’s suicide a couple years following, that I realized this work was also about my experience of being raised by a mentally ill mother.
By Ahndraya Parlato