The artist Christian Boltanski was recommended to me several times by various professors. I loved his work immediately when I saw it. I have been trying to find books in the library about his work for a while now, but they always seem to be checked out or missing. I finally ordered one titled Boltanski: Time, edited by Ralf Beil. By slowing reading through it, I’m realizing how much Boltanski is obsessed by death and the anonymity of the living. In his work he presents people or objects that are dead and forgotten. Having been born in France post-Holocaust, Boltanski had a challenging childhood since he had a Jewish father. In his early work, he would often invent his own childhood and history using other people’s photographs. He would purposely choose photos that could be anybody and would often use many of them together to further implicate anonymity of the figures. This furthered the universality of his work. Boltanski comments in an interview with Ralf Beil on May 24, 2006: “I’m fundamentally convinced that the observer completes the work of art. I provide the stimulus, and the observer reacts in accordance with all of his past, his deepest experiences, turning it into something else.”
In relation to my own work, I am less interested in the death aspect and more so in the memory or the traces of memories that are left behind. Another big difference is that I am using photos that are personal to me, so it is even more about memory and my family’s trace through history.
Each stand shows a single person, on one side as a child, on the other side as an adult.
La reserve des Suisses morts (The dead Swiss), 1995
Each biscuit (cookie) tin has a face of a person pasted to the front. These faces were appropriated from the obituaries. The faces of the dead are smiling, showing the best side of themselves. This is a good example of the truth and fiction theme that I’m interested in. There is always a flip side.
Scratch Room, 2002/2006
Underneath a layer of silver paint that scratches off fairly easily are large photos of crime victims and criminals from the Spanish magazine, El Caso. It is left up to the audience to scratch off the silver paint to reveal the layer below and in doing so the violence of the crimes are mirrored in the act of the audiences participation and leaving its trace on the floor of the gallery. After the photos are revealed, we are still unsure of who the criminals are and who the victims are.