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 struggles to integrate with the women around her. 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 Women are increasingly coming to the fore, challenging outdated traditions and mobilising a particular brand of feminist discourse in order to intervene in the sacrosanct space of the funeral parlour.
The exhibition tours to The Tetley, Leeds, from 17 July–27 September.
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella (FVU), with the support of Harris Museum & Art Gallery, The Tetley, The Fenton 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.