Hotel Minerva - Motifs
Pam Skelton, May 2011Motif-Portraits
The image of the face is a record of the existence of a life. Each face is a meditation on life and death, past and present, the uniqueness of an individual and the fluctuations and temporariness of life. The face turns to paper, the old document. The face dissolves into paper. Yet each image gives way to an apparition destabilising the appearance of solidity and permanence. The aged distressed paper is an object that holds the image. It is like the skin of a person, it is the product of wear and tear of time itself, as is the body and is akin to a parallel history. Each image is seen in transition: it is both itself and another. They retain the musty smell of airless time and as images they are brought temporarily back to life.
The area was noticeably run down despite its close proximity to the city centre and the main railway station together with the former docks. I documented this area with an SLR camera using 35mm black and white film in 1990, which ended up stored away until now. In November 2010, I returned to Hull with Jessica this time using digital formats recording and documenting temporal forms and revealing repeated patterns. Transience, as if at a standstill, give ways to ruins that remain the same, alongside newer ruins.Motif-Marseille
With Walter Benjamin, Lisa Fittko and other stateless people fleeing from France after the German invasion in 1940. It was the refugees who held my mind in two visits to Marseille that I made in December and September 2010. I have a picture in my mind of Marseille in the 1940s from reading Fittko's book Journey Across the Pyrenees that famously records the last journey of Walter Benjamin from Banyuls to Portbou and sections of Anna Seghers' novel Transit. A place to put one's head down, a place to eat, a place to leave as soon as possible, the last open port in France. These pictures kept superimposing themselves onto present day Marseille not only during my visits to the city's archives and history museum library, but in everyday life there whilst negotiating the history of the city. A city of cross-roads.
These were territories that had been out of bounds for most Westerners until 1989. My family came from out 'there', but there was no specific there, it was a 'there' that was not locatable. Reclaiming roots was not one of my aims, not because I was not interested, but because there is no data to trace. I was in Shpola, in the region of Kiev. A very small town, its population estimated at 18,000 in 2004. The Hi 8 tape of Shpola, from '93 was never edited until I dug it out from the box of moribund cassettes last year.