Trigger Warning - contains violence and images of death.
Crime Scene or Accident?
When the short term memory of my mother disappeared I was left trying to piece together how my father died on 6th December 2019. Sitting in the hospital I wondered what were the cuts on his forehead and why could I find nothing in the flat he had fallen against? Were the marks on his neck bruises? He was a controlling and violent man and I positioned my mother as a victim. Had I seen the full story or understood anything? How many perpetrators were there in my family? The police examined his body and advised that the death was, "...not in the public interest." For two years I have photographed her flat and the objects she held close.
My family was an unsafe and dark place to grow up in, a unit of secrets and severe abuse. I have known pain and darkness, it is familiar and enticing and I know that to heal I have to move towards the light. I carry the shadows inside me. Even when we grow and transform, the shadows stay hidden in our bodies. The body keeps the score, the heart may be torn, the shoulder burdened. Once we know fear we cannot unknow it. How do I define a safe space and embrace transitions in myself, I admire those who grow, I am drawn to these people, the alchemists who speak of a journey but see no ending just a work in progress.
First two images and Object With Stains are taken by my daughter who was doing a degree project on intergenerational trauma.
I'm the girl on the left in the yellow jumper. My mother's whole body is curved away from me. She cannot hold my hand and she discouraged all forms of touch or conversation with me. I am looking away, I escaped into books and ponies. I asked her about her marriage and she said she had a good life and would not change anything. This image was in our family album, a treasured one.
Trace and Trauma
"The blood was all over the floor."
"But I scrubbed and bleached it."
"I can still see it."
My mother hid bottles of spirits in every cupboard. After my dad died the cocktail cabinet emptied in clear view. Each week I visited and more bottles had emptied and I recycled. I thought she was grieving. We had myths, careful versions of the truths within our extended family, to speak out was to be punished. They would suffocate, strangle, beat unconscious the child who had an opinion and then say I had imagined it. To survive I believed them all.
"..refers to the mental conflict that occurs when a person's behaviors and beliefs do not align. It may also happen when a person holds two beliefs that contradict one another."
What would happen if I ended this state and sought my truth and found evidence to prove that I did not imagine my childhood, if I photographed objects to make the clues real? A photograph is a my way to interpret my world. I photographed my dad when he died, a habit to prove that something had taken place. The objects in the flat began to tell a story, it was there all of these years but I was trained not to see it. I did not see a lot of the blood until my daughter showed it to me. Someone had wiped it away, but they left traces.
"Ressler and Dias opted to study epigenetic inheritance in laboratory mice trained to fear the smell of acetophenone, a chemical the scent of which has been compared to those of cherries and almonds. He and Dias wafted the scent around a small chamber, while giving small electric shocks to male mice. The animals eventually learned to associate the scent with pain, shuddering in the presence of acetophenone even without a shock." Ressler and Dias 2013.
This reaction was passed on to their pups. Despite never having encountered acetophenone the offspring exhibited increased sensitivity when introduced to its smell, shuddering more markedly in its presence compared with the descendants of mice that had been conditioned to be startled by a different smell or that had gone through no such conditioning. A third generation of mice — the 'grandchildren' — also inherited this reaction, as did mice conceived through in vitro fertilization with sperm from males sensitized to acetophenone. Similar experiments showed that the response can also be transmitted down from the mother." Ressler and Dias. Published in Scientific America 2013.
But is there a way to say, "this has to end" for I do not believe we are forever trapped in these cages.