Five questions about care and resistance: Mika Sperling

How would you define care in your practice?

For I Have Done Nothing Wrong, prevention was definitely a topic for me. I discussed this with my husband: how do we prevent abuse from happening again ? How can we prevent having a blind spot? You think you’re doing everything, but then there is this blindspot, this one person you trust… So I thought, “it’s not all about control, you can’t always mistrust everybody”. I don’t want to live a life like this. But what I can do is to make an environment where my daughter trusts me, where she can tell me everything that doesn’t feel good. So that she won’t be afraid of making me sad. In a way, it sounds ridiculous, but this is exactly what happens: the children also protect us.
I feel like by doing I Have Done Nothing Wrong, I saved myself. I almost became like another person that offered a third perspective: I didn’t do this, someone else did this. I felt loved so much. I never knew what self-love is. Where is this love coming from? Yes, it’s coming from the people that see my art as well, but initially, it’s coming from myself. That is incredible. If I would’ve known how powerful this love is, I would’ve started much earlier doing the things that are good for me.

How would you define resistance in the context of your practice?

Considering I Have Done Nothing Wrong, I resist the urge to please my mother. She wasn’t pleased that I was publishing this, she was ashamed of being a bad person in this story - because she didn’t notice. So she is not portrayed in a good light. This makes me angry in a way -not at her specifically, but again the adult wants the story to be about them. But really, the story is about me and the abuser, it’s our story. It makes me angry that she’s sad about it. I resist to please her, because I feel by pleasing her, I’m dismissing myself again.

Do you see an intersection between gestures of care and gestures of resistance in your practice?

I just want to live a happy life. By confronting the transgenerational trauma, I feel we’re healing, as a family. I’m healing. There is just so much, I keep digging and there’s more and more and it’s never-ending. For example, there is a lot of shame in my family about lying: it’s the worst thing you can do, to lie. But don’t you want to know why people lie? Why do we sometimes feel forced to lie? So I’m interested in exploring that. I want to tidy up, to clean this whole mess. I want to become a better parent, a better mother, so I focus on all of this. My oldest daughter is now capable of lying, so when she lies, I’m just showing curiosity. I try not to judge her for it.

So when I think of care and resisting together, I think of resisting the old path. It is so much work to constantly reflect, but I do this almost on a daily basis. I’m sure a lot of parents can relate. You always want to make sure that you’re not blindly following a path. I constantly reflect to make sure I’m not destroying my child’s childhood. But this is exhausting at the same time. My daily life, my family life, is the source of my practice, and can be the start of a new project.

What is the role and power of images in your process?

I don’t always know what I want to say with my images, they just happen. I take them, and then later I look at them again, and then eventually my thoughts arrive at a certain point where it’s all there. The meaning of an image becomes clear, and I can give it a title.

So if you take for example Afraid To Fail You. In this picture of my daughter, she is sleeping and very vulnerable at that moment. And I see how thin her eyelids are, I see how blue the little veins underneath are, she has a little scratch on her forehead and all I can think is: “I’m afraid to fail you”. My images have little stories to them. Sometimes it takes a while looking at an image until I realize what it meant.This doesn’t happen overnight, I just go out and take the pictures, and see what they tell me.

Afraid to fail you, 660m away

Is resisting images through images possible?

I mean, the nightmares have stopped… I had this curve where things got worse during the project. I started and then it got a lot worse. There were these images popping up that never really happened, combined with documentaries that I watched - the ones about Michael Jackson and Woody Allen, the books I read by Vanessa Springora and Camille Kouchner... This all got mixed up in my head, creating these nightmares. So I thought that I made it worse. I think it was probably not so good for me to watch all of these in one month.
However, I wanted to meet my allies, and I realized we have so much in common. I felt what they were saying in these documentaries is so true to me. So I made it worse before it would get better.
When others are looking at the images I share, and telling me what they think, this is liberating to me. It gives the idea that I can take someone on a walk with me. I did this project all by myself, and no one knew except my husband. And now, people know my story, and they’re with me, I’m not alone. So I think the sharing part is the most healing too.

︎ Visit Mika’s website:

With you, 55m away