‘A family album holds a profusion- a confusion – of pleasures and pains, as pictures old and new offer themselves up with depictive innocence. Family collections are never just memories’ (Holland 2000: 1)
The intent of Detriment (2016) is to unpick the family myths and reflect on a personal journey of loss, with significant memories from my childhood. Photographs from my childhood are haunted with memories of conflict and abuse, or as Barthes would refer to as the ‘Punctum’ of a photograph, a personal response that ‘pierces’ or ‘pricks’ me (Barthes 1980). My pieces are a response to the past, and elaborate on the referent, which haunts my family album, by combining elements of past and present. This project is similar to the workings of a family album in that I am bringing new perspectives, new understandings and new forgetting’s (Holland 2000: 1).
Letters of Expired Devotion (2017), is a progression from my previous project, Detriment to a Family Album; Where I continue to explore identity, memory, absence and metaphors for the process of remembering and forgetting. In a response to the absence of my own family album, my practise pieces together fragments of family history with my own memory, by creating reconstructed archives, with the aid of my Grandparents love letters. I created this project with the intent of placing my own identity within existing family archives, and shift personal details of family, loss and conflict into a public space. My practice enabled me to gather and piece together these fragments of family history, combine them with my own memory, to create a personal response to them.
‘The archive oscillates between embodiment and disembodiment, composition and decomposition, organization and chaos’ (Spieker 2008: 1)
My practice works in a similar way to an archive, in that I am organising, and piecing together fragmented memories, preserved in the form of photographs, files, objects and stories. My work has taken the shape of a reconstructed archive, as a substitute, to make up for the absence of the family photographs of my childhood that are in the possession of my Dad. An archive can become a haunted place, as they do not simply reconnect us with what we have lost. Instead, they remind us (Spieker 2008: 4). My practice recycles and reinvents family treasures, showing present family perspectives, such as my own, to reveal the time that has past. In Freud’s terms, the unheimlich can be connected to archives, as “Heim” meaning home in German, and “Heimlich” means secret, or hidden; Marking the unexpected return of an object we recognise as familiar.
George Wright, My Granddad, survived the sinking of HMS Sikh off Tobruk, 1942, at 20 years old. During a two-year interment as a prisoner of war in Italy, he became friends with a fellow prisoner, Bert Cottrell, who later became his Brother – in – law. The letters between my grandparents began when my Granddad was sent to Lympstone, Devon, to recover in a rehabilitation centre after falling ill with dysentery and malaria.
‘Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them’ (Benjamin 1969: 61)
The letters were passed down to my mum and I when my Grandparents passed away, precious memorabilia to cherish and remember them by, as a part of their lives are preserved in writing. My starting point began with a running theme of Melancholy and absence throughout my practice.