Tue, 19 Oct | Online event

Mummy was Busy: Leunig's cartoon and the fracking of attention under lockdown

In the cartoon ‘Mummy was busy’, renowned Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig depicts a baby who has fallen out of a pram looking bereft while his mother is staring at her phone oblivious. Leunig is making a statement about the increasing priorisation of smart phones...
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Mummy was Busy: Leunig's cartoon and the fracking of attention under lockdown

Time & Location

19 Oct, 7:30 pm – 9:05 pm AEDT
Online event

About the Event

In the cartoon ‘Mummy was busy’, renowned Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig depicts a baby who has fallen out of a pram looking bereft while his mother is staring at her phone oblivious. Leunig is making a statement about the increasing priorisation of smart phones, specifically social media, over embodied human relationships. Predictably, his cartoon was met with a riot of objections accusing the cartoonist of ‘misogyny’ and ‘feminist baiting’. My point of departure is somewhat different: the artist has both a right and a duty to reflect the culture back to itself and to ask difficult questions. What does it mean that mothers – like all others in contemporary western culture -- are increasingly staring at their phones? What does it mean for infants and young children who form an image of themselves in and through the gaze of their mothers? In the context of the pandemic and extended lockdowns mandating much more ‘screen time’ what does it mean for children to spend so much time on screens themselves and for their parents to be increasingly working, socializing, politicking and being entertained online? This is a speculative psychoanalytically informed inquiry. It offers a sympathetic reading of Leunig’s cartoon from a maternal feminist perspective drawing on Winnicott’s notion of the importance of ‘potential space’ as a field of attention inviting a child to connect and flourish. Is this space being damaged by what tech philosopher Tristan Harris calls the ‘fracking of attention’ and how might increasing digitization and social isolation be impacting the mother-child relationship, and children’s well-being?

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