english > german

A Discussion between Uta Nusser and Claire Waffel  1/4

U.N.

I would like to start our exchange of ideas with a passage of text by Craigie Horsfield, which I was spontaneously reminded of when I studied the staging of the photographs of you and your grandmother from the 2003-04 series "Close Family". "When I make pictures of people, of whom I know something, I do not penetrate their being. I can only see the evidence of their selves. To some extent it is about their being, being whole, not whole in isolation but as part of the fabric of existence, a very physical and corporeal existence. It is important to see it not only as the body, but the body in time." When I make pictures of people, of whom I know something, I do not penetrate their being. I can only see the evidence of their selves. To some extent it is about their being, being whole, not whole in isolation but as part of the fabric of existence, a very physical and corporeal existence. It is important to see it not only as the body, but the body in time"1. It seems to me that the present that goes unseen, the simultaneity of history and the parallel running of various time structures also play important roles in your art and for you as an individual.

C.W.

My intention in "Close Family" was to create a portrait of my grandmother. The more I worked on the series, the more aware I became of the necessity of placing myself in the picture. However, this does not imply that the photographs are about me as a person. If I want to show something about my grandmother, it has a lot to do with our realtionship - with what I feel for her. Of course, this is the case with every person I take a portrait of, but with differing intensities. Whenever I visited my grandmother's home, I had the feeling of entering a space that had been left behind in time, as well as being far removed from everything else. Our grandparents are people who are there from the start of our lives, but who we know will not be there for our entire lives. Now that my grandmother is no longer alive, I am beginning to see myself in her or her in myself. I look at my body and can imagine how it might age. I respect my grandmother a lot - for the knowledge she possessed, knowledge, which was derived from different life experiences than mine. I ask myself whether the family history she lived through could be lost or whether it inevitably will continue to live through me. Maybe it is precisely that moment - when your relationship to your grandparents changes - that you take on responsibility for your own life and to a certain degree for their lives. In old age my grandmother took on and exuded child-like traits, which I found surprising and very endearing. During the project, I probably - for the first time - became aware of what I most value about the process of photography: in that moment you are bestowing importance on somebody; you are valuing the person being photographed. I have repeatedly had the experience that in doing so I am able to achieve something quite profound: to capture a moment of the person's life out of the flow of time, thereby attaching special importance to that moment and that person.

U.N.

If one closely examines your images, installations and projects one can recognise that they do not necessarily deal with everyday life, with reality, but rather with life as history, with what Fernand Braudel referred to as "slow history". Due to the current dominant idea of progress we view history mainly in terms of what the past has left behind and not as a real process that runs right through the complexity of human existence. History is not about recounting the past, but has to do with people's current lives. Would it be right to assume that during your work "La Voix Retrouvée" from 2004-07 you were influenced by similar concepts?

C.W.

For me "La Voix Retrouvée" is an answer to the loss of the past and the im/possibilty of making a documentary record of it. On several occasions I tried to record the words of the writer W. G. Sebald, who was also my professor. A recording of an interview I did with him in 1999 is inaudible after five minutes, as the recorder's batteries were empty. This precipitated in me a need to search for the thoughts and the connections he makes between collective and private memory in my own life, thereby verifying whether they can be captured and endure the passing of time. Sebald demonstrates in his work that the possibility exists - and constantly repeats itself - that history and memory can be lost: "... how little we can hold on to, what and how much constantly is forgotten with every life lost, how the world so to speak empties itself out by never hearing, recording or repeating stories about all the countless places and objects, which themselves do not have the capacity to remember ...". 2 Sebald's writings have conveyed exactly this sense of history, which you described as a "real process that runs through the complexity of human existence in the current moment". Due to the author's death the interview could not be repeated, which led me to take a Polaroid photograph of every book by Sebald I came across over a time span of more than a year in the most different of places. At the same time it was clear to me, however, that this would never really fulfill my need to engage with the author's work, but I felt the need to make this desire at least visible. So, my wish to highlight in my work the connections Sebald wrote about, between individual lives and collective history, persists. I view my artistic work, at least in part, as an examination of how and to what extent various media have the potential to transport memories. Do they possess different qualities or are they simply different means of expression to construct and depict historicity and memory? Even if we view history as a continuum - as an elongation of the present moment and not as the clearly divided time structures of past, present and future - there are moments that suggest the need to document precisely this moment, to capture it so it does not get lost. These moments interest me, even though they might only give the illusion that something is being lost, as this loss is a continuous process consisting of moments, which are independent of each other and continuously supersede each other.

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