The Male Pregnancy Art Project

Male Pregnancy has multiple conceptual and aesthetic levels and was conceived and realized by two very different artists, Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong, as a onetime collaboration. The numerous cultural examples of male pregnancy, as discussed in the previous section, provide a rich cultural context for this work.24 Lee (2009b) referred to the collaboration between himself and Wong as a “two dads” project. This description, it is possible to argue, alludes to at least two major dimensions of this project that are highly distinct and do not necessarily interact with each other. The first dimension deals with questions of biomedical and biotechno-

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logical representation and mediation of the pregnant male body, based on what I call biomedical realism. This part of the collaboration, it seems, was mostly produced by Wong, whose work tends to critically address the aesthetics of the biotechnological and biomedical (Wong 2009). The other aspect of the project is less concerned with the science of male pregnancy and more with the ecology of male pregnancy, that is, with the interconnectedness of a pregnant man with a fetus inside him, with other people around him, especially women, and with the world that surrounds him and nourishes his pregnant body. This part of the project is led by Lee, as he situates his “pregnant” self in New York City’s public spaces (video documented) and through the text of his interviews, which emphasize his expectancy and expectation of pregnancy as well as his empathy with his sister and mother. With respect to the general aesthetic approach, Wong and Lee employed “biomedical realism” to make the public believe that male pregnancy is already a reality and that Lee’s pregnancy was actually happening. The artwork—especially communicated through its Internet presence— was supposed to be so “real” and “believable” that it would obviate the sensationalist and comic representational clichés of male pregnancy discussed in the previous section (Lee 2009b). The public was supposed to start asking further questions, beyond the usual “Is he really pregnant?” As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, many of the audience members during my lectures on this project indeed believed that Lee was pregnant and asked other questions rather than those about the authenticity of his pregnancy. In addition, Thomas Beatie’s case seemed to reinforce the Male Pregnancy art project’s “realist aesthetic,” despite the fact that Wong and Lee, as well as Beatie, all claimed their pregnancy to be the “first male pregnancy.” This connection between them, however, conceals a more important difference. While the aesthetic of “biomedical realism” succeeded in “fooling” the audience, it obscured, I argue, a much more important challenge to the art of male pregnancy: how is one to articulate the maternal relation of hospitality without evacuating the materialities of pregnancy by a simplistic, obsessive demonstration of male “protruding bellies” and “abdominal cavities”?

The Work
The project consists of a set of multimedia, performance, and interactive works, which have been shown since 1999. On several occa-

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sions the project was presented as an installation that featured medical imaging, photographs, and a narrative on the medical plausibility of male pregnancy, including hospital data, video documentation of Lee’s “hospital” visits, and a computer with Web links to the research on male pregnancy. When it is not shown in a physical space, the project “lives” permanently on the Web site www.malepregnancy.com, which presents most of the biomedical aspects involved in a successful pregnancy in men. The use of various technologies, especially the Internet, allows the project to be updated and supplemented and allows Lee Mingwei to remain “permanently” pregnant, frozen in time. Home videos on pregnancy that are circulated on the Internet and YouTube often end in the climax of delivery and birth, when an image of a newborn “validates” the pregnancy (unless something goes “wrong”); in Male Pregnancy the delivery is not the main point; rather, expectancy and hosting are given the most prominence. Multiple images of Lee Mingwei are available online, as well as his diary, a video of the future mother/father navigating Manhattan and interacting with passersby, a taxi driver, his doctor, and the documentary makers—and ultimately, with us, the audience. This material can also be accessed on Wong’s and Lee’s personal Web pages (www.virgilwong.com and www.leemingwei.com). These separate presentations of the work by these two artists underscore my earlier point that they approach this project very differently. Wong embeds the project within his main page, linking it immediately to his other works that are concerned with biomedical technologies and their representation of the body; he creates a “total package” of the hospital environment (where new research is being conducted and presented to the public). Lee, on the other hand, seems to “hide” the project by providing a Web link to it in a rather obscure manner and steers viewers’ attention to his other works in more depth and detail. I will develop this point further in the following discussion, when I attempt to show the connection between Lee’s reluctance to embrace the “spectacular” side of this project and his wider artistic concern with welcoming and hospitality, which are not necessarily revealed through the “biomedical realism” of Male Pregnancy.25 In one of the installation versions of the project “visitors to the gallery can monitor Mr. Lee’s vitals, learn about the science of male pregnancy, participate in online chats about the social implications of pregnant men, and leave messages for him” (Wong 2009). In another installation view, from 2002, we notice a pink baby cradle, inviting and cozy, sur-

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rounded by chairs and a table with a computer on it displaying the project’s Web site. Again, the sense of anticipation of a coming baby (girl?), conveyed in the simplest fashion with the cradle and chairs, juxtaposed to sophisticated new reproductive technologies, represented by the computer, creates a sense that male pregnancy is already mundane and not primarily about “technology.” In the beginning of the project, when it was first shown in a New York gallery, it notably was presented as part of one same-sex couple’s desire to have a child: “The First Male Pregnancy. Amid cries of joy (and anguish) around the world, parents Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong cross the final gender barrier and make it possible for men to have babies” (Wong and Lee Mingwei 2002 [1999]). This point, once again, connects us to the previous discussions on biomedical, bioethical, and cultural discourses on male pregnancy and the way in which they challenge (or not) normative heterosexuality with respect to the maternal relation.

The Experience of “Male Pregnancy”
The irony and satire of the modern Western imaginary of male pregnancy (Velasco 2006) seem to engulf all possible readings of Wong’s and Lee’s images of male pregnancy and reinforce the anthropological interpretations of the couvade as a performance of womb envy or the matrix/womb as a metaphor of enveloping (Hall and Dawson 1989). All these representations engage in the spatial mimicry of pregnant embodiment: enlarged, protruding stomach, heavy walk, simulation of pain, food restrictions, morning sickness, and physical confinement. The doctor in this artwork plays the role of a couvade consultant or another master of the ritual—teaching what one should feel, what pregnancy “symptoms” are normal, whether it is for a man or a woman. In the video documentary Lee is visibly “awkward” and “heavy,” as if he is undergoing Empathy Belly training. The discourse of medical normalization and regulation of pregnancy that has been extensively studied in feminist literature (Martin 1987; Ruhl 2002) is exploited in the Male Pregnancy performance through a convincing simulation of the medical environment. The images of Lee’s ultrasound again point to the abdominal region, where we are supposed to see the embryo (as in the previously discussed South Park episode on male pregnancy), as if, once, again, the matrix is only a question of the availability of space (figure 5.1). The images reinforce our mediated relation to the other as the only relation we

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figure 5.1
Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong, Male Pregnancy Project, 1999–2002. Image courtesy of the artists. Copyright © Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong. All Rights Reserved.

supposedly have (Kirkman and Fishe 2008; Stormer 2008), as we become accustomed to the cultural overexposure of the intrauterine environment as “nothingness” where the baby grows. In a seven-minute video documentary of the project,26 Lee performs as a “very” pregnant man walking around Manhattan. His pregnancy is portrayed, as couvade practices are, through physical, social, and psychological references. His belly protrudes, and his walk imitates a cliché image of a pregnant woman nearing delivery. Two encounters are remarkable and stand out. In the first, he meets a woman, who is happy about his pregnancy and (somewhat ironically) says, “It’s about time!” She remarks that her sister has had many children and would love to have her husband “carry the next one” (Lepault and Lafait 2005). Her reaction testi-

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fies to a position, which, if not accepting of male pregnancy as a reality, is certainly prepared to accept it as a possibility. In that sense, the work succeeds in going beyond the question “is he really pregnant?” Another encounter happens in a taxi. The driver remarks that he wishes Lee well, but his own religion (a monotheistic religion) would not allow male pregnancy, unlike Lee’s religion—Buddhism. Apart from the facts that Lee was not pregnant and that Buddhism is not, strictly speaking, a religion, the taxi driver’s reaction is very telling on at least two levels. First, it once again testifies to the general acceptance of the possibility of male pregnancy. Second, it shows that the public at large seems to have already formed complex responses to male pregnancy (as one of the “soon-tocome” biomedical “miracles”) that are often framed with reference to their own cultural and social contexts. Just as the couvade was unacceptable to early European observers based on their definitions of “normal” and “civilized” man/father and woman/mother, the American public is increasingly engaged with the subject of male pregnancy not simply as a comic performance and a farce but as a subject with which to engage. Thus, with all those markers of pregnancy exposed, represented, and reproduced, the art project Male Pregnancy, in its biomedical manifestation, has many elements found in the scientific literature and in couvade rituals and practices. What connects them is their approach to male pregnancy as a question of “where”—the male pregnant body is a passive container in which growth occurs—and the various performative strategies that they use. There is a tension, however, between the images that seem to position the audience as passive observers of the “biomedical reality” of male pregnancy and people’s responses to the “pregnant” Lee as he travels about in Manhattan. This tension is between the representation of pregnancy as merely a question of where and the ecology of pregnancy, that is, its social, political, and environmental context. In her “Reproducing the Posthuman Body: Ectogenetic Fetus, Surrogate Mother, Pregnant Man,” Susan Squier departs from the comfort of certainties about right/wrong and natural/artificial when studying images of male pregnancy and points out that the images under scrutiny are “neither inherently oppressive nor inherently liberatory” (1995:113). What is important, Squier asserts, is that “posthumanity is not only oppressive (though it can be that!) but can also affirm linkages: to other psyches, other species (animal and vegetable), and other agencies, from technological to the multiple and intrapsychic” (128). A rare example of cultural analysis that cautions us against

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f igure 5.2
Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong, Male Pregnancy Project, 1999–2002. Image courtesy of the artists. Copyright © Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong. All Rights Reserved.

a universal application of the theories of oppression (seeing power relations only in oppressive terms of domination and control) and full liberation of “rights” and “freedoms,” Squier’s analysis of concrete, productive, and shifting power relations is particularly useful in approaching this artwork. The visibility of pregnancy, as a spectacle of a container as space,

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is sometimes all that is positioned as central about pregnancy. But how does one represent a maternal relation? In other words, do we need to see a man pregnant, such as Lee Mingwei and Thomas Beatie, to start addressing the question of man as mother?

The “Social Conceptualism” of Lee Mingwei: Hospitality as an Artistic “Method”
All references to biomedical possibilities and biotechnological representations of male pregnancy can certainly lead one to assume that this work is just another example of sensationalism that tries to attract attention through a reversal of “normal sex roles.” Wong and Lee’s digital manipulation of Time and USA Today covers show Lee’s protruding belly feed and simultaneously mock such assumptions, joining a long line of sensationalist real magazine covers (figure 5.2). In her book Male Delivery Velasco discusses this project, in a section titled “Pregnant Man as Comic Entertainment,” along with the movie Junior (1994), in which a character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes pregnant, various tabloid covers with “shocking” news about male pregnancy, and recent television medical dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy. Velasco agrees with David Emery’s judgment that this art project is “just the same old joke retold in a brand-new medium” (cited in Velasco 2006:17). This reaction is the result of the artists’ use of the aesthetic of “biomedical realism”: no matter how hard they may have tried to avoid sensationalizing the topic, the project might easily be accused of trying to attract attention to itself through its “curious” subject matter. As discussed earlier, what often gets emphasized in representations of pregnant men in popular culture, folklore, and mythology is the absurdity and monstrosity of (male) pregnancy, revealing anxieties about the female body as well as challenges to normative heterosexuality. However, this work cannot be so easily categorized as “the same old joke.” Moreover, such an assessment testifies to our own scholarly blindness in considering pregnancy mostly through its images and representations. Attending to the tension between the images and his walk in New York, and to Lee’s art practice as a whole, reveals a different picture of this work. In one of his interviews, Lee informs us (ironically) that he is aware of such “jokes” and media representations of male pregnancy; when he does something different than “putting up a show” of male pregnancy, it is still seen in dismissive terms.27 Lee questions male pregnancy as

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theater, however transgressive and subversive, while Velasco in her book privileges the Bakhtinian concept of “laughter” and transgressive deconstructions of the feminine/masculine opposition through the drag queen theater of male pregnancy. Lee questions the paradigm of Western man by refusing to see his work on male pregnancy in either ironic or liberatory sexual terms. Moreover, he tells us, his work has been about anything but irony and laughter: It’s interesting that some people believe the definition of being a man is so precarious! And unlike the men who feel this strong desire to physically become women, I’ve never wished for that . . . and I haven’t done that. I have, however, always wanted to have a much stronger empathy with women. I love my mother and sister very much, and I’m very happy to share in something they have both experienced. Being pregnant is a wonderful feeling. It’s something that all human beings—both men and women—should experience before they die. This process has been a spiritual rebirth for me. . . . Actually, I see this pregnancy as being very much in keeping with Buddhist philosophical thought. There is a strong connection I feel between myself, the child within my body, and the world around us both. And I think there is a greater awareness and empathy I now share with my mother and sister as a result of my pregnancy. Most of all, there is a level of insight and understanding about being alive—of sharing your life—in ways that I’ve never realized before. (Lee and Versalius 2002) Here, I am arguing, is where Lee Mingwei’s artwork departs from a traditional representational path: first, it approaches the question of male pregnancy not only or primarily as a question of a biomedical “fix” of the male body in terms of looking for a passive containing space (if we can manage it in the abdominal cavity or in a transplanted uterus, as scientists ponder); second, his performance of male pregnancy, similar to couvade rituals and practices, goes beyond merely imitating the cultural clichés and signs of pregnancy as a “growing belly” and ponders the question of pregnancy as a welcoming of the other. Lee, I argue, positions male pregnancy as an expectation of and toward the other, thus connecting hospitality and the maternal relation as the potentiality of the materiality of pregnancy rather than its natural occurrence. His walk in Manhattan, reflecting a desire to connect to others while he is “pregnant,” is echoed

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by, as he says, his desire to connect to his mother and his sister. Evoking empathy is not something new or different in Lee’s work. His artist’s statement claims that his method is “hospitality” and his art is “social conceptualism” (Lee 2009a). The challenge, however, is that this element of hospitality has been the hardest to achieve in this work, inasmuch as it is so easily misunderstood as a “gimmick.” Along with the image/performance tension, this work uncovers a conceptual tension: on the one hand, the work seeks experience of pregnancy as something important, something that “all human beings . . . should experience before they die,” and, on the other hand, this work is about the maternal relation and connection to others, through the acts of hospitality that his mother, his sister, and others who nourished him throughout his life have granted him. The following gestures/artworks by Lee position his Male Pregnancy performance at the nexus of man and hospitality: feeding others and inviting others as a way of introducing himself to a new place and a new place to himself (The Dining Project, 1997–2005); inviting another person to spend the night with him versus being alone in the exhibition space (The Sleeping Project, 2000, 2003); creating architectural spaces, as in his Living Room Project (2000), to emphasize “hospitality and collection” (Lee Mingwei and Lee 2000); writing letters to those we always wanted to write to but never have (The Letter Writing Project, 1998–2003); paying respect to his grandmother by taking care of lilies, even as they die, for three months (100 Days with Lily, 1995, 1998); being attentive to the most “minute” acts of the day, to the ecology of the self in an environment of an artwork, and looking for a change in oneself as a result of being hosted by others and providing hospitality to them through cleaning, cooking, and sharing the experiences of his grandparents’ lives (Artists as Residents, 2006). Many of Lee’s projects are repeated in various locations at different times. If we list his concerns, it becomes clear that for Lee hospitality is very concrete and minute rather than abstract and ephemeral: cooking for and dining with others, making their sleeping arrangements, and inviting them to his space; expecting others after cleaning residences and preparing for guests in a myriad of other ways; exploring public space by walking with strangers as a tourist. In most of Lee’s works he does not make new things or objects (though such works exist as well) but rather uses the opportunity to host others in spaces or situations where he himself is often a guest. Throughout his work certain elements remain: his connection to his grandmother, his emphasis on the Buddhist

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(specifically, Chan/Zen) attitude to life, and his concern for and interest in strangers. One of the installations of The Sleeping Project was part of the 2003 Venice Biennale. Two beds were placed in a palatial room. Visitors were invited (through a lottery) to spend a night with the artist. In the morning, the visitor would be asked to leave one of their personal possessions behind, and that object would become part of the work’s collection. Sometimes the writing and conversation that took place during the night were also collected and presented in the gallery space. In a different setting, this time in a New York gallery, one of the visitors reported on what happened the previous nights and what was left by the visitors: “Sandra arrived at 9.42 p.m. and left at 10.30 a.m., depositing a pile of magazines topped off by The Economist. She added a gentle thank you note. Mary came at 11.27 p.m. and left at 11.45 p.m., taking Mr. Lee bar-hopping with her. He begged off at 1.30, he said, after seeing a side of New York he rarely encounters. Mary came back at 4.25 a.m. and left at 9.06 a.m. Her table holds an unopened bottle of wine, an open overnight kit, a necklace, a gift pendant of the Virgin and Child, and a wilted flower from a dot-com company” (Larson 2000:3). This work requires Lee to be prepared for the unexpected, but not in a masochistic way. His vulnerability is not sacrificial; neither is he inviting violence by distributing “tools and weapons.” On the contrary, Lee creates a situation of mutual vulnerability that is often the very structure of hospitality. In a culture and a city where hospitality is not necessarily the main concern, Lee evokes his childhood experience of sleeping with “10 cousins in the same room. The adults would turn out the lights and we’d all start talking” (Larson 2000:3). Missing the overall theme of hospitality in Lee’s work, this project is too easily framed in sensationalist terms of “sexual humor, punning on the meaning of the phrase ‘sleeping with’ the artist.” (Hawkins 2007:2). In line with the above-mentioned approaches to the Male Pregnancy project, our own forgetting of hospitality can overpower our interpretation, directing it toward the “sensationalism of comic entertainment, satire, and irony.” The 100 Days with Lily project seems to be a more straightforward work (figure 5.3). Lee carried a lily plant with him for one hundred days, even after the plant had died on the seventy-ninth day. Lee carefully documented his activities in photographs: eating with the lily, sleeping with the lily, walking with the lily. The work is about impermanence, an important concept in Buddhism. But it is also about Lee’s respect for and memory of his late grandmother. Lee welcomes his grandmother through

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Lee Mingwei, 100 Days With Lily (1995, 1998). Image courtesy of the artist and Lombard Fried Projects, New York. Copyright © Lee Mingwei 1995–2011. All Rights Reserved.

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extending hospitality to a flower. And this is not the only project where he directly evokes her presence. The Letter Writing Project is also a tribute to his grandmother and grew out of his experience of her death; it involved “composing long epistles to her containing everything he could not say during life to this forceful woman who studied Western medicine and lived in Japan” (Larson 1998:2). Resonating with the Buddhist notion of the equality of all life forms and therefore the need to welcome and care for all life to the same degree, 100 Days with Lily is a powerful reactivation of the maternal relation at the heart of hospitality, as Lee welcomes both the plant and the grandmother. The Buddhist references in Lee’s work are meant to clear a space for a different definition of man and masculinity that redefines the existing connection between men and virility (see especially Lingis 2002; Oliver 1997a). He is a man, and he is “passive beyond passivity” (Levinas 1969): this is a powerful message of Lee’s artworks.28 Positioning Male Pregnancy alongside other works by Lee helps us recognize him as an artist concerned with his hospitality toward and welcoming of others, including his grandmother, mother, and sister. Thus his art of male pregnancy stands out both aesthetically and ethically in relation to the matrix and hospitality. Lee’s empathic pregnancy questions the psychological interpretation by Munroe and others of the couvade syndrome/male pregnancy symptoms in “modern” men as a pathological overidentification with the female body. Lee’s performance also provides alternatives to the artistic and cultural examples of male pregnancy as uniformly based on mimicking the mother for the ultimate purpose of appropriating women’s ability to procreate. Though always in danger of forgetting the maternal relation, man’s hospitality is enacted when it acknowledges “empirical” women and their acts of hospitality and, in return, opens itself up and becomes vulnerable and, even at the risk of being misunderstood, does not close itself off in silence. Thus, this work is a challenge for us, as Lee calls for our hospitality to welcome his desire to experience pregnancy, and for the artist, as Lee extends his hospitality to mothers. In both cases the question of “where” a child might “fit” does not seem to be as important as the question of what this process of welcoming another within oneself and being welcomed by others, within and without, means. Lee is not concerned with performing/becoming a woman as a precondition to becoming pregnant (as in Velasco’s examples, 2006). Neither is he concerned with performing/ becoming a man, as Thomas Beatie is. The central question is whether

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Lee needs to be pregnant to extend hospitality to others and to receive our hospitality. This question can be answered only by examining Lee’s whole body of work, I argue, since this one artwork has proved to be more challenging to his “method of hospitality” than others. The work, in a sense, is still continuing, as a project, and has different lives for each of its “dads,” Virgil Wong and Lee Mingwei. But it is the connection between all the different parts of male pregnancy that makes this work so unique: the biomedical discourses on male pregnancy as the question of where; cultural discourses on and performances of male pregnancy in the couvade, sympathetic pregnancies, and Empathy Belly technology; questions of trans- and homosexuality, effeminacy, and Western definitions of masculinity; and the awareness of the “hospitality” of the maternal relation as the foundation for other relations of hospitalitybased material acts.29 Lee Mingwei’s art articulates the maternal relation of hospitality by connecting hospitality toward strangers with hospitality toward and from “empirical women” in his own life: his grandmother, mother, and sister.

Man/Father, Matrix, and Hospitality
Cultural examples of male pregnancy potentially challenge what Kelly Oliver calls “absent body father.” “The absent father is fundamental to our image of fatherhood and paternity,” writes Oliver (1997a:4). It means that his absence is necessary and important for the reproduction of patriarchal culture, which sees itself as natural in relation to the maternal nature. This dialectic also implies that, philosophically and psychoanalytically, men were first naturalized as stronger and more aggressive so that their paternal authority is legitimized as natural, grounding their symbolic and legal authority. Women, on the other hand, as the “weaker sex,” naturally do not reach cultural authority, remaining at the level of the maternal function—that is understood only naturally. Even when the father is present, he is disembodied in his presence, for he represents the law and authority of culture. This, argues Oliver, means that he cannot provide love, since “love is concrete and embodied” (1997a:5, see also 1998). What is important here is not so much how the definitions of fatherhood and motherhood are connected to either nature or culture but what these connections achieve: what purpose they serve, what power relations they produce. Thus, when trying to reinscribe embodied and responsible fatherhood back into debates on artificial and assisted reproduction, Daniel Callahan (1998) uses the argument of “biological fatherhood” as

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a basis for the father’s moral responsibility. Moreover, the “biological” is evoked in order to renaturalize the bond between the father and the child as a question of morality and duty within the framework of a nuclear heterosexual family. Such a family, once again, is reproduced as both natural (by defining the maternal/paternal connection as primarily “biological”) and also morally right. While Callahan raises a few important questions about current commercial and disembodying attitude to sperm banks,30 he argues his point by equating sperm donation and pregnancy as resulting in “perfectly real, and conventional biological,” parenthood (1998:101). Callahan implicitly endorses normative heterosexuality and paternal authority by claiming that the “magical” connection between father and child is based on biological fatherhood, which is challenged by biomedical professionals and, potentially, by single mothers and “feminists” who are, we assume from Callahan’s writing, to be blamed for reinforcing the absence of fatherhood. Callahan’s position is an illuminating example of an attempt to embody the father back into a bioethical discussion that ends up downplaying the mother once again, reinforcing the “biological” father-child connection as the primary foundation for paternal care. It is not a question of hospitality, then, toward a mother or an interactive relation between a man and a woman; it is a question of moral duty on the mother’s part: “Far too much is made of the fact that the woman actually carries the fetus. That does not make the child more hers than his, and in the lifetime span of procreation, childbearing, and childrearing, the nine-month period of gestation is a minute portion. Only very young parents who have not experienced the troubles of teenage children or an adult child’s marital breakup could think of the woman’s pregnancy as an especially significant or difficult time compared with other phases of parenthood” (Callahan 1998: 105). Callahan’s demand that the woman not make “much” of her “gestation” (we are back to biomedical terminology, but this time to play down pregnancy by treating it as a passive container service) is a closure of any possible relation of hospitality. On the other hand, it naturalizes the maternal relation of hospitality as essentially feminine or as what comes from the biological experience of pregnancy. As an alternative to this position of “father’s body presence,” in his beautifully written article “Male Ways of Giving Birth” (2003), Claus Theweleit explores Sara Ruddick’s concepts of “maternal thinking” and “caring labor” as something that men can learn from women. His own experience of his wife’s labor was an important embodied experience for Theweleit that (though it borders

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on essentializing male hostility and female nonviolence) demonstrates what male hospitality might look like: Theweleit’s writing weaves his own presence as an opening toward and a welcoming of his wife, his newborn child, and Sara Ruddick. This is what Lee Mingwei’s work, alternatively, achieves: it does not claim that it is not a “big deal” to go through pregnancy, that anyone can do it (anyone with a sufficiently large abdominal cavity and proper amount of hormones). Lee Mingwei shows that pregnancy is a very big deal, not due to the so-called biological (read: automatic) connection, understood through twentieth-century biomedical terminology of chromosomes and medical visualizations that create a sense of passive containment, but rather as a work of expectation, of welcoming, as a fully embodied act. It is a matter of our explanatory framework that could systematically acknowledge and engage with the maternal acts of hospitality or downplay and deny them. Making space for the other radically—that is, without preconditions, without preconceptions—is the hard work of hospitality. As a host, Lee prepares himself and expects anyone to visit him, including his mother and his sister. He is not interested in reenveloping himself in another “matrix”—be it language, machine, or nature—from which, subsequently, he breaks free. This would close the possibility of hospitality, as discussed in chapter 2. Lee’s projects reveal the hospitality of (maternal) relation through his art of social conceptualism. When viewed in the context of Lee Mingwei’s body of work as a whole and of biomedical and cultural discourses and practices of male pregnancy, Virgil Wong and Lee Mingwei’s Male Pregnancy articulates the maternal relation as a relation of hospitality, through a male body’s enactment (as opposed to simulation) of a hospitable relation between self and other. This project, through its desire for biomedical “realism” and refusal to present male pregnancy as a “biomedical fix” of the male body to create a “where,” has the potential to question the view of the maternal relation as a sacrificial containing, stressing instead the maternal agency of hospitality as expectancy and expectation. Other art projects by Lee that explore hospitality support my claim that the matrixial/maternal relation is not an automatic, involuntary service of sacrifice and care (often they are not) but rather should be acknowledged as providing the potential for all other relations of hospitality. Finally, Lee’s art is most powerful in its ultimate unease with being a de-monstration of pregnancy. His refusal to show this particular artwork anymore enables him to articulate the ethical failure of (re)presenting male pregnancy as a biomedical fix.

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