• Raha Khademi

Family Album

It was one week till my flight to The Netherlands and I had a big pile of photos that I wanted to scan. I felt like I was discovering my roots all over again but this time there was something different. As a child I was mesmerised by these photos and the stories they told but this time I felt like I could give something back and this need became more and more compelling as I felt myself drifting away from all the familiar things that reminded me of these roots and stories.

When there is time and consciousness, stories become inevitable. When anything becomes aware of its immortality it craves roots. The present does not suffice her. She needs a past and a future. Our root is the stories we try to tell. Our root is the warmth that a tale creates in our hearts, the security of knowing yourself as a part of a whole; a community that outlives you. Through our consciousness we discovered time and through stories we tried to forget it.

The process of listening to a story and drowning in the familiar warmth of it is a promise of security, a security with the promise of a community, of a whole, a collective realm of thought that is vast and inclusive. For the beautiful experience of narration to happen you need to know sorrow, longing, pain and trauma. But where does all this begin? It begins where memory fails us. It begins when we are torn from the womb, from a shelter safe from cold, hunger and active consciousness. We know security, we experience security and we are torn. In a moment we feel hunger, cold, pain, harsh sound and light and we are born and that is how the first trauma is made and the cycle can begin. After a few dreadful minutes we will be warm and safe sucking a breast with a familiar smell and we do not yet know where we end and she (the mother) begins. We are one with our mothers, we are whole, and we are drowned.

As our consciousness kicks in, more and more each day, we crave and recreate what we have left behind. Our cultures and communities were formed by stories. We have not yet known people devoid of myths and stories and even now, almost as far away as we can be from our primitive state, the joy of hearing stories remains strong within us.

Stories serve another purpose too. They make us remember, not just the whole that we belong to now but what we have lost. The stories help us overcome traumas by remembering them. We create patterns and through them we heal. We remember a glorious past ruined and redeemed and we remember that traumas can be overcome and much more importantly we preserve the goodness that we have lost. It makes our moments, our family and our home immortal.

The function of survival and its crucial role is beautifully told in a passage in Norse mythology in the story of Sigurd: “Beside his body Gudrun sits in silence. She cannot speak; she cannot weep. They fear that her heart will break unless she can find relief, and one by one the women tell her of their own grief, the bitterest pain each had ever borne. Husbands, daughters, sisters, brothers, one says, all were taken from me, and still I live.”

My paintings were born out of the need to reclaim a whole. The process in which the paintings were made is best exemplified in the literary tool of metonymy. In a sense the paintings are a part of a whole and not a replacement. Therefore the reference is contained within a whole that is partially visible before the audience. The atmosphere is used as a clue to a whole that is lost. The images and photos I’ve been working with are all part of a whole that I have lost and partially regained through stories, narration and painting.

One of my ambitious goals is to make my audience internalize a story that they have not personally experienced and to convince them that in the realm of narration and imagination, the rational barriers can be lifted to leave you in a timeless and limitless whole in which you are a part of a community of experience that outlives your own and extends to a heritage much larger than yourself. I have been using photographs in family albums as the starting point of this project that heavily relies on notions such as memory, remembering and imagination of the past and if my audience does not come to realize the reason behind this choice they won’t be able to proceed in the path I wish them to take. My audience should be able to understand the significance of photography in this particular cultural context and how its peculiarity helped me define the project. It is important that I try to explain how the experience of photography differs in cultures that go through chaotic phases of trauma and how the trauma manifests itself throughout every communicative passage the community tries to make. I have to explain the significance of this culture and the trauma it has gone through in my experience as an individual artist.


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Utrecht, Netherlands