In this visual poem, we see someone looking through a pile of old photographs. The images are taken from the artist’s family archive, and are typical of the snapshots found in any family photo album. Taken in Syria, Lebanon and Belgium, they show adults and children celebrating and living their lives. The photograph is in itself a selective way to record the past - for every moment captured, how many are lost? The photograph can also be a very choreographed image, and many of the pictures here involve groups of people carefully staged against a background, presenting themselves to the camera. If a photograph captures a constructed, stylised idea, can it be truly said to represent a memory? "Not only is the Photograph never, in essence, a memory, but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes a counter-memory. One day, some friends were talking about their childhood memories; they had any number; but I who had just been looking at my old photographs, had none left." (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida/La Chambre Claire, 1980). Photographs never show the turmoil, rupture, or fear, but only smiles and laughter. They are sorted and collected into albums to represent a homogenous, chronological official and legitimated history of the family, free from undesirable elements. Many of the images show the standardisation of young people - Brazilian football shirts, birthday parties centred around the cake, children showing off their uniform or face paint. Some of the photos are damaged or defective - overexposed, scratched, out of focus. In all cases, individual identity is masked or lost. If this loss takes place in the process of showing or sharing the camera, of being presented to it as though for approval, then what process takes place at the viewer’s end of the process, the act of looking at a photograph? At the end of the video, the camera pulls back to reveal the woman looking at the pictures. Is her experience of looking at the photographs different from that of the viewer of the video, or that of the cameraman? The background music, provided by ’80 000 people’, is eerie and discomforting, and includes squeaky, scratchy noises reminiscent of an untuned radio or a vinyl record left on the turntable.
M. Verdoncklaan, Mekhitar Garabedian, 2003 © the artist & producerM. Verdoncklaan, Mekhitar Garabedian, 2003 © the artist & producerM. Verdoncklaan, Mekhitar Garabedian, 2003 © the artist & producer  
  • Format miniDV(miniDV)
  • Color system PAL
  • Color col.
  • Year 2003
  • Duration 00:08:40
  • Artists