Family album II
In the series Family Album, I use old family photos to imagine who I would have been if I had been born and lived in Spain instead of in Denmark. I amalgamate two original photos from my family album and thus reconstruct my family history. By using the family album as a genre, the work of art is given a touch of authenticity. The authenticity is a made up one, most of the pictures were taken in 1972 – two years before I was born.
In several of the constructed photographs I am seen side by side with my mother or father when they were my age. The series weaves together snapshots from the past and the present, special celebrations and everyday life, and the constructed photographs thus shakes up the notion of memory and reality as a steady and unchangeable thing.
The Danish author Dy Plambeck contributes to Family Album with a text inspired by the series. Family Album consists of 12 photos and text and has been exhibited at museums in Copenhagen, Chicago, Seattle, Iowa and Washington DC.
The exhibition has been touring for two years in the US and sponsored by Immigrantmuseet, Museum of Danish America, Nordic Heritage Museum, West Chicago Museum, Embassy of Denmark in Washington DC, The Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C and the Delegation of the European Union in Washington, DC.
"It was a long summer, the summer of 1972, one of the warmest in many years. The heat came flushing over the beaches of Málaga, up into the mountains, reaching out into all directions like the branches of a tree. First the orange trees flowered and the white flowers were like snow on the green buds. Soon the oranges were on the trees whose treetops where so big they made the trees look like houses. That was the summer where my uncle gave me a donkey. I loved my donkey. It’s sad persistence. Every morning it was in front of my door. It followed me down the mountain to school and back again in the afternoon. My donkey and its comical sound. Its long fluffy ears.
But in August the weather changed. All of a sudden a heavy sky rested over the town and created a darkness that did not match the season, the sun, and the summer. The clouds were spread out over the sky. There was a certain uncanniness to their misshaped bodies. Like someone who has a tumor growing on the right side of their face, a pouch of skin on one hip. That the skin, where the eyes were supposed to be, had grown together. We had gone to the beach. It was my momís birthday. The wind blew her blonde hair into her face, hiding her large eyes. Her blue gaze. My light-skinned mother on the beach. Then the sun came out from behind the clouds. I looked into the sky and in that same second, the sun disappeared again. Silently the clouds slipped in front of it. It was like a vision of something I did not know what was, a short glimpse that was taken away from me again.
We had spread the towels out on the sand. My dad bought an ice cream cone for my mom in the kiosk by the beach. He brought it to her with a wide smile, the ice cream had a lit candle in it. My mom blew out the candle in the ice cream. It was a powerful blow, a horrible sight. It made me feel cold. I crouched on my towel, but I couldn’t get warm.
When we returned from the beach the donkey was gone. I walked around the house, up to the meadow behind it, past the little knoll. Donkey, my little donkey I called. Then the tears came, wild as a fire, I stood there looking straight ahead, terrified as if I already understood then that the donkey was a premonition of all the things I was going to lose later. In spite of all this: When I think of that summer now, the summer of 1972, the heavy sky, it is not the donkey I see, but my mother on the beach, my light-skinned mother, my dark-skinned father, the ice cream cone, the candle, her blowing. But I am no longer in that picture. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can never get back into that picture."