From laughter to cry
Series of paintings and video art, 2019.
Winter 2018 while living in a small town in Austria, I started to work on a new painting series. Thinking about my family history and how communism war in former Soviet Union (now Turkmenistan) effected my family a century ago, I was interested to work on the generational transmission of the traumatic past in our family. Having this on my mind I started to paint and Surprisingly I found myself painting only the distorted laughing faces. There was something about laughter, its power to erupt that always fascinated me. But why laughter? How is laughter related to the generational transmission of my family trauma?
it wasn’t until I met a new friend in the winter 2019 who introduced me to the term “postmemory” that I could come up with some answers. I will try to briefly explain postmemory by its difference from memory using my own familial transmission of the war. According to Marianne Hirsch, memory is when my grandfather who experienced communism war himself, recalls it. But postmemory is when my grandfather shares his memory of war with me, then based on his memory, I form my own memory which is called postmemory. Because that I have not experienced war myself and I assume because of the generational time gap between me and my grandfather, Hirsch argues that post memory’s connection to past is not by recalling but rather an imaginative investment, projection, and creation.
Using postmemory as a tool to think about trans-generational trauma in my family, I started to feel uncomfortable. My postmemory didn't feel engaged with my familial past through my imagination, projection and creation. Rather it felt more in interaction with forgetting and erasure. Also I always felt certain kind of distance from my grandfather’s past, in a way as if I was not fit or suitable to feel or to be empathetic. But why?
Having this question on my mind, I started to go through the memories that my grandfather had shared and a family video of when my grandfather visited his home after 50 years. I noticed that in our familial transmission of the traumatic past, there has been no place whatsoever of a female memory or experience. My grandfather’s exclusive memory and his exclusive tribute to his grandfather in the family video(the one I have used in this show) both with no women included, subconsciously has made me exclude/erase myself from engaging actively in his experience and his memory. The lack of female memory and female engagement in grieving and therefore empathy for our family loss has caused the transmission of the traumatic past to be one-sided and imbalanced. And when females were pushed away from therapeutic act of crying, subconsciously I have turned to another pole in my paintings, which is laughter. According to Heller, there is no empathy in laughter, but a rational judgement that we pass. I guess the only way to get close to my family’s past experience was to unconsciously laugh this exclusion off.