“This is crap! You can obviously see that she is acting. She is pretending to spit on you — she almost laughs! The work has no violence! It is fake violence and it is just not interesting.” So said Aernout Mik, the Dutch artist and teacher at the Iceland Academy of Arts, when the young Ragnar Kjartansson showed him Me & My Mother (2000). In this short video, the artist and his mother pose in front of the living-room bookcase, looking rather stiff, before she starts persistently spitting in his face for several long minutes. The violence of the action contrasts with the obvious complicity between the two players. The mother’s barely contained laughter and the son’s bashful demeanour produce an alienating effect; a hamming-up which was severely criticised by his teacher. “I was devastated. But when I started thinking about what he said, it was as if he had spoken some magic words. I realized it was the fact that it was acted out that made it interesting. It was the falseness of it that made it so real. Aernout Mik with his passion as a teacher opened the door to my art for me.” Every five years, the artist and his mother follow the same protocol, with its numerous metaphorical meanings; the saliva evoking in turn language, contamination or a deadly passion. The student’s project has turned into a ritual, and a family portrait bearing witness of the passing of time. Me & My Mother is thus as much a mischievous memento mori as the expression of a filial love which is lost for words.