Romania 1990 - Hamelin c.1300


" What if the materials of memory are overwhelming, so traumatic that the remembering of them threatens identity rather than reconstituting it"

 WJT Mitchell, "Narrative, Memory and Slavery" 1994

 

In 1991worked in Romania in an orphanage and hospital for children with HIV and Aids. The policies of the Ceaucescu Regime were very much present and the overwhelming atmosphere was one of fear.  This experience has stayed with me very strongly, but it is only recently that I have found a way of making images around it. 

The policies of the Ceaucescu regime forbade women to use contraception or have abortions and resulted in vast numbers of abandoned children - approximately 100.000 in 1989.  Women found to have had abortions were routinely made to work in orphanages as a punishment.  The Aids epidemic was a result of a policy of treating routine childhood illnesses with micro-tranfusions of (unscreened) blood.  Control of the population was maintained by a system of spying, involving 1 in 6 of the population.

Some of the questions I am asking in the work  are
How are traumatic experiences told and processed as wider narratives?
What is the function of story or mythology and ?
How are myths created ?
How can I  create a visual language to express fear and shame ?

The term 'Doublethink ' from Orwell's 1984 has become increasingly woven into the narrative as is what the art historian W E Dubois has refers to as a 'double consciousness' the sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, which also related to the Big Brother concept of mental manipulation and observation of thoughts.

The Romanian experience resonated strongly  with the story of the Pied Piper as they both dealt with the disappearance or abduction of children in large numbers, they also dealt with what happens to communities when in a state of fear ,how people become deceived and controlled through manipulation of fear.

The acts of scapegoating and projection onto other humans and animals are ideas I have attempted to explore. I was helped by looking at the work of Kara Walker, Kiki Smith and Krysztof Wodiczko .

I've been using steel plates and being much more destructive with their surface,  scratching, biting with acid, burning, tearing, foul biting, but using paper which is delicate and fragile.  I want to create a conflict between vulnerability and violation through the method of etching, exploring its destructive potential, as well as enjoying its delicacy.