The Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, London

Family Ties: Reframing Memory

3rd-25th July 2014

Exhibition Reviews:

How might we read memory in relation to the family, and how might we enact these memories through art practice? This group exhibition addressed the representation of family memory through the photographic, video and sound works of six artists. Family Ties: Reframing Memory explored the bittersweet aspects of reflective nostalgia, yet also considered the conflicts and contradictions inherent in acts of remembering.

Suze Adams navigates the borders of fact and fiction in an exploratory retracing of her maternal ancestors on the Isle of Mull. Nicky Bird draws on family albums belonging to others to illuminate personal, political memories connected to place. Jacqueline Butler’s poetic approach alludes to sensory memories prompted by public photographic collections and her personal archive. Rosy Martin re-enacts a lost past as she embodies both of her parents in their family home, as well as using projections to evoke a sense of haunting. Lizzie Thynne’s sound-led work examines the inter-subjectivity of life histories, highlighting the link between memories of childhood and feminist politics. Sally Waterman employs literary adaptation as a mechanism for self-portraiture, recalling traumatic memories of family conflict through T.S Eliot’s poem ‘The Waste Land’.

As artist members of the Family Ties Network, their work offered a poignant and provocative response to themes arising from the associated conference, Picturing the Family: Media, Narrative, Memory (10th and 11th July 2014, Birkbeck, University of London). All FTN members presented papers at this conference across two panels.

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Saturday 5th July, 2-5pm, Peltz Gallery                                                                   

Artist talk in gallery, led by Nick Kaplony, Independent curator and Senior Programme Coordinator at Artquest and short film screening in Birkbeck Cinema, featuring work by Suze Adams, Rosy Martin and Sally Waterman. This  35-minute looping programme deals with key themes such as ancestral connections to place, the parental home, mother-daughter relationships, the family album and mourning and loss.

  • Rosy Martin, Too Close to Home, 1999, 8 min
  • Rosy Martin, The Sitting Room, 2002, 8 min
  • Sally Waterman, Wisdom, 2013, 1min, 25 secs
  • Sally Waterman, Against, 2014, 5 min
  • Suze Adams, Communion, 2012, 12 min

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Friday 25th July, 6:30pm, Birkbeck Cinema                                                                             

Lizzie Thynne, On the Border film screening and Q and A with Dr Silke Arnold-de Simine (Senior Lecturer in Memory and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck)       

On the Border, enacts a daughter’s exploration of her Finnish family’s history prompted by the letters, objects, and photographs left in her mother’s apartment. Fragmented memories, dreams, and diary entries are juxtaposed with the director’s journey to significant places and people in that history from during and after the Russo-Finnish wars, 1939-1944. Thynne’s mother, Lea, and her siblings were evacuated from the disputed border territory of Karelia and Lea’s father was killed in 1941, fighting alongside the Germans against the Soviets. The story of her father’s death in action is contrasted with the more indirect impact of the war and its aftermath on the destinies of Lea, her mother and siblings. Lea began to see and hear things from age 42. Thynne searches for the causes of her mother’s breakdown as well as acknowledging that she can only understand her family’s past through her own experience and imagination. In this hypnotic work of mourning and remembrance, past and present, associations, memory and imagining intertwine, as the film charts the lingering traces of conflict and exile across generations.

Lizzie Thynne, 'On the Border', 2012

Lizzie Thynne, ‘On the Border’, 2012