Piotr Zbierski

Every week we feature a series of one selected artist who was published in our printed magazine. This person is blogging during that time.

Andrei Nacu

Andrei Nacu – In the Forsaken Garden Time is a Thief

»In the Forsaken Garden Time is a Thief« is a subtle insight into a couple’s daily life in contemporary Romania. In examining their struggle to absorb and cope with some of the traumatic political and social shifts of the last 50 years their relationship becomes an analogy for the disillusionment and dissatisfaction that marked these decades. The context, the environment that my parents are in and the history that they have been subjected to is really important and the challenge was to tell that story that is simultaneously personal but also general in relation with the social and political context.

Once, my father entered my room and he said:
»How can I explain this thing… may I sit for a bit? I wanted a little bit of rest… I don’t know how to explain to you the fatigue, I don’t know how you could explain to yourself the fatigue. There is a kind of fatigue that you could never explain, because you didn’t live those pieces of life that I have lived. But this is nothing… good night! I’m going to sleep. I don’t think that you could ever tell me that there is something beautiful as long as everything else is in dark. Not the beauty of the fact of being… May I go to sleep? Thank you very much!«

Andrei Nacu – Profile

andrei nacu - portrait

Andrei Nacu (b. 1984) is a Romanian documentary photographer based in London. He recently graduated with an MA in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales, Newport. In his creative practice he is using family photography and archive photos to create stories which analyze the junction between personal memory and social history.

Andrei Nacu – Guest-Posts

Alexandra Davies – Interview

March 2nd, 2015Author: Andrei Nacu

Alexandra Davies – Tabula Rasa
»The project draws upon a collection of personal and found family photographs of siblings dressed in identical outfits to explore themes of identity, memory and absence within the family history. An attempt to restage these historical photographs in a contemporary context has led to questioning the relationship between mother and child and also the realisation of the importance of clothing in relation to certain memories. In venturing to recall memories from these photographs a certain overlap of fiction, which seeks to complete the gaps in the narrative has been identified and the addition of short stories to accompany the found photographs question the reliability of the photograph as a tool for recollection. Being highly aware of the weight of history which the collected family photographs held and their intensely personal nature she attempts to isolate them from their true identity in order to create a new imagined history for them. It is human nature to draw upon our own experiences in order to connect with the unfamiliar and the text integrates fragments of truth from conversations with those who have donated photographs with elements taken from literature, cinema and the artist’s own imagination.«

If in your earlier projects your practice was concentrated on creating your own images, with “Tabula Rasa” you work more as a curator and writer. How did you become interested in the family album and collecting family photographs and how has this interest evolved?

I have always been interested in the family photograph and its ability to say yet at the same time withhold so much about the family sociology, the dynamics and relationships within a family structure. Beyond all other areas of photography I believe the family photograph has the strongest connection with memory, identity and loss and these were all themes I was trying to explore within the project. At the beginning of the project I would visit my mother’s house and look through her vast collection of family photographs; some arranged in albums, others loose or still in the sleeves that you’d get from the processing lab. Looking through them, I was struck by how often my mother would dress my two sisters and I in identical outfits. It would mostly be for special occasions; family get-togethers, birthday parties, holidays and almost always for school photographs. This got me to wondering why she would do this and whether it was as commonplace in other families as I thought it may have been. I collected together all these childhood photographs of my sisters and I then decided to put out a few online requests and ask people I knew if they had any similar childhood photographs they could send me. I built up quite a collection of these type of photographs and found that people would often send them accompanied by an explanation of what this occasion was, who is in the photograph and how their mother would do this kind of thing too, which I found interesting. It was like they wanted to share the story of that image with me, not just send it without any context.
As a response to the material and to try to explore some of those ideas I started to do some staged studio portraits, which attempted to mimic the style of the school photographs with my two sisters. I got my mother to select an identical outfit for us, which we wore in the shoot. The portraits seemed peculiar and I wasn’t really sure they were working how I would have liked. They didn’t match up to my collected photographs and I didn’t feel it was really going anywhere. I think in terms of the process though I needed to try it and it may be something I return to in the future. It seemed to make more sense to focus on the material I had gathered and the importance of memory and narrative within the photographs.

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Iñaki Domingo – Interview

February 28th, 2015Author: Andrei Nacu

Ser Sangre is a photographic project by Iñaki Domingo, created in collaboration with the members of his entire family. It now appears in the form of a photobook under a joint imprint of publishers RM, Here Press, and Cuadernos de la Kursala, which belong to the program to support young photographers of the Extension Service of the Vice-Rectorate of International and Cultural Projection of the Universidad de Cádiz.

The photographer took advantage of a vacation time to propose a joint project to the members of his family. The idea was for all of them to participate in the decision-making process, from the conception of the photographic project to its final form as an exhibition and book.

»With summer vacation as a background, the initial idea of the project Ser Sangre was to create, in a collaborative manner, a visual totem that shows who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we interact: a sort of collective definition of ourselves,« explains Domingo.

Each member of the family contributed intuitively whatever he or she thought could be of interest to the project, though none of them had any artistic training or special relationship with creative work. Installations, body painting, recipes, archival work, illustration, actions… little by little, they began to appropriate the world of art in a natural way. These materials are combined with the photographs taken by Domingo, which partly document the proposals of the rest of the family members and partly constitute his own creative contribution to this collective narrative.

At the same time, and on a second level, Ser Sangre seeks to question and explore how the family is traditionally represented in family photo albums, reflecting on the reasons why the images contained in these containers of intimate visual memory always tend to look the same. Collections of frozen smiles predominate, to the detriment of other moments, much more frequent in any family’s day-to-day activities. »Why do albums never record the moments that evoke sadness, boredom, anger, routine?« asks Domingo.

Rather than as a linear narrative, I think this book works by making the viewer more and more curious with each flipped page, making him to want to view more and to understand more. This strategy of surprising the viewer with every image and leading him in the search for clues to decode the complex layers of the story, as for resolving a puzzle, is something that you have premeditated or was more a response to your experience there? How much in creating this project was instinct and intuition and how much was planning and anticipation? Did you have any strategies in mind before starting the project?

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Sissel Thastum – Interview

February 27th, 2015Author: Andrei Nacu

I am here when you are here

To my Mother and my Home
»Through the nature, the landscape and the feminine form, »I am here when you are here« mediates a close and intimate relationship between mother and daughter. It is a bond that is found within the return to the familial; the home and the mother. Portrayed through a melancholic language our relationship to each other, to our age, our gender and our identity become underlying themes. The essential presence of nature in connection with the body calls up the notion of a cultural and symbolic identification, emphasising the feeling of the ‘Nordic’ ambience.
Within the return to the familial, an uncanny presence of both attraction and estrangement is evident. These elements enable a search for memory and, consequently, identity. Julia Kristeva connects this search with what Freud named the ‘umbilicus of the dream’ and she essentially states that it is “…something unnameable, which becomes, none the less, the source of our investigation”. This investigation of, and search for memory and identity; what we cannot talk about, what we try push out of our sight and out of our mind, therefore becomes the vital undertone of the images.
I am here when you are here is a personal project made between my mother, my home and I.«

Sissel Thastum, 2014

I had the privilege to ask a few questions about this project not only to Sissel but also to her mother, Line.

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Peter Hammill – Autumn

February 26th, 2015Author: Andrei Nacu

I’m very happy to be a guest-blogger for Der Greif! During this week I’ll share with you few things that I like and three interviews with some artists whose work I admire. I hope you will enjoy my posts.

Today I want present you this song played by the English singer Peter Hammill (former leader of Van der Graaf Generator). His music has always been a source of inspiration for me.

Peter Hammill – Autumn

So here we are, alone -
our children have grown up and moved away.
living their own lives, they say…
it all seems very strange to me.

I don’t understand their ways:
our children amaze me all the time
and I often wonder why they make me feel
so sad and suddenly old.

Now we’re left with an empty home,
from our nest all the birds have flown for foreign skies.
We’re discarded, of no further use,
though we gave our kids all our youth and all our lives -
we really tried.

Now there’s only my wife and me;
we used to have a family – now that’s gone
and only memories linger on…
it all seems very wrong to me.

To our sorrows they were quite deaf
and as soon as they could they left us to our tears.
We always tried to teach what was good -
yes, we gave our kids all we could through all the years.

So here we are at last;
the time has gone so fast and so have my dreams.
I simply don’t know what it all means,
this pointless passage through the night,
this autumn-time, this walk upon the water….

I wonder how long
it will be till this song
is sung by our own sons and daughters?