While working on my personal archives, I realized that there were very few images of my parents before their marriage: an iconographic desert explained by the fact that they were born in the 1930s in Morocco not yet having running water or electricity. The few photographs kept by my grandmother were double-locked away so as not to touch upon the tragedy caused by the accidental loss of one of her sons. A blanket of silence had stroke with a ban on this previous life. I found myself orphaned by images from the past.
I collect anonymous photographs that I buy in flea markets. I am magnetized by the happiness displayed at attention in these photos, by these people I don’t know but who existed, loved, and disappeared. They are ghosts who follow me quietly, and I take them over to build an imaginary family album in order to repair oblivion.
I am rebuilding the memory of my family that I missed, I am inventing another one made to measure where I resurrect all the ancestors who have disappeared, the territories that I did not know and that have been praised to me.
These scraps, given away for a few euros on the curb because the heirs no longer want them, change status by a simple gesture: the application of gold leaf on the photograph. By masking part of the image and, more specifically the faces of these ghosts, I multiply the possible projections tenfold.
Gold is a stainless metal. The golden flat surface operates both as an obliteration and a shiny surface on which our own faces are reflected.
I choose photographs that evoke something déjà-vu, a familiar pose, happy moments that illustrate all those fables told about ancestors. This happiness, ritualized as events unfold, refers to the lies about the family myth. It removes the dark matter related to the family, which is precisely absent from these photographs.
In order to deny this ideal happiness, I note at the bottom of the photographs in this imaginary album, personal and painful memories that speak of the difficulty of building a happy life “just as in the photos”.
I type these memories on a keyboard whose keys are inoperative because of a coffee I accidentally spilled there, just like Hölderlin who voluntarily removed some strings from his piano and played without knowing which ones were missing. The memories I recount become opaque, incomprehensible to the reader.
But like these photographs, which express the impossibility of identification, I construct “absent” memories.
Using these images is a way of living by proxy and restoring a dream life. Nevertheless, the gold leaf procedure creates gaps in memory and imposes a distance, so I am not fooled by the lie they display.
Working on these photographs allows us to mourn the ideal family life. Taking back one by one all the old fantasies about these projections, and dismantling them, makes this symbolic death bearable.