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INSIGHTS_06 — About my family history

Silvana Trevale. Comadres series

There are a lot of factors that make someone feel tempted to investigate their own roots. Sometimes small details are the ones that make us pull the string in order to try to find out more about our origin. You might have experienced the curiosity of meeting those who came before you. Those people that, without knowing it, influenced the way you see the present.

There’s always a thread to follow. It could be a location that reactivates those buried memories, a traumatic experience that makes you look for what happened, or a simple physical characteristic that relates you with one of your ancestors. The following artists pay attention to the exploration of their family roots, highlighting how important are the interpersonal relationships between family members.

Aurélie Sorriaux. From the series “In Search of my Curls”, 2020.

As a human being, It is inherent to question ourselves where we come from. This concern is associated with concepts of identity and heritage. Aurélie explored hers using as a starting point, her hair. Being the only one in her family having curly hair, provided her a perfect opportunity to dig about her identity and origin.

With the research-driven mindset of a geologist, she set up a methodology for this project based on her family archival materials, putting together memories of her relatives and DNA tests involving close family members. The process involved different areas of research at the same time. Aurélie also had a fictional exchange with her ancestors through texts. She wrote a list of questions that she would have liked to ask to her ancestors and share it with her parents, thus giving importance to the transmission as a source of knowledge. This research of the facts and the fiction, outlines the attempt to delineate a person’s identity.

Alice Oliver. From the series “somewhere & nowhere”, 2019.

It wasn’t until Alice moved to Swansea that the landscape of South Wales once again became a district of importance for her family. It has been almost 50 years since her father left his hometown in Wales. Together they decided to journey across South Wales, at the beginning of 2019, as a way to connect with the land from which they came.

For Alice, it was important to find the connections between memory and place, finding small forgotten impressions that could reactivate those lost personal stories. She realised that there’s a link with the places that saw her family grow and these shaped their perception of the region. Alongside her photographs, Alice gave a polaroid camera to her father, who collaborated with his own perspective. This series represents a quest of the true path of memory, an occasion to reconnect with her father, and fragments of his roots, which at the same time are also part of Alice’s heritage.

Siqi Li. From the series “Empty Nest”, 2021

The one-child-policy imposed by the government to many Chinese families has increased, over the years, different traumas in some family cores. One of the most common feelings is the sorrow of separation. Many parents experience a sense of grief when their children leave home, and feel the necessity to rethink the family roles.

In 2019, Siqi Li’s mother joined her father on his retirement. This fact adjusted new domestic routines, sometimes repetitive, on which the sense of longing was growing little by little. The project was based on this complex sense of longing from an intimate point of view about the insecurities related to Siqi Li’s family life. It explores a multi-generational narrative based on their past and collective memories. It is, at the same time, a reflection and a discussion of the new identities that have emerged around family relationships and how to accept them.

Antonio Rodriguez. From the series “Tacaná”, 2018–2021.

Situated in the high mountains of Guatemala, Tacaná is a small border town with a strong Mexican influence. Antonio’s grandfather was from this town, but he never had the chance to meet him. He never had any reference from him. His interest to find out about his grandfather’s history came when his family revealed to him that he was exiled in Mexico due to his political involvement during the Ubiquista dictatorship in Guatemala from 1931 to 1944.

After this discovery, a lot of questions came to Antonio’s mind. Why did he have to leave his country? Was he in trouble? Did he commit any crime?. All of these questions brought him to research about what happened. Antonio discovered that his grandfather’s identity document was disrupted, which complicated his identification. The project born from a personal need to explore through a photographical perspective the self-censorship of memory from a brutal dictatorship, the notion of exile and the contradictions between being part of everything and nothing.

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Aurélie Sorriaux (b. 1994, France) is a visual artist based in Amsterdam.

Through her photographs, she investigates, the complexity of concepts such as existence, memory and life experiences. Aurélie explores family heritage and the existing multi-generational histories and how they culminate in ourselves.

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Alice Oliver (United Kingdom) is a British emerging photographer.

Alice’s work considers the interactions between the spectator and the viewer. She explores temporality using moving image and installations as well. On her installations, she incorporates archival footage to create a new subversive narrative.

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Siqi Li (b. 1998, China) is an artist based between London and Beijing.

Siqi bases her practice in photography, text and archival interventions. She explores profound human experiences such as the feeling of nostalgia, loss and longing. Siqi Li uses personal and collective archival materials as a structural resource for her recent projects.

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Antonio Rodriguez (Guatemala) is a photographer based in Berlin.

With a wide experience working as a photographer in America, Europe and Africa, Antonio has always focus his practice into story telling. His projects explore social issues such as migration and territory through the activation of archive imagery.

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INSIGHTS is the an initiative by Conceptual Projects that puts the spotlight on artists’ narratives. In Conceptual Projects, we truly believe that collaboration is essential for success and visibility on these days. INSIGHTS was created to bring together photography based projects that explore similar areas of investigation, initiating dialogues between artists and their projects.

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Images courtesy of:

Aurélie Sorriaux

Alice Oliver

Siqi Li

Antonio Rodriguez

You can find us on Instagram and on our website

Text by:

Juan Blasco — Founder & Curator of Conceptual Projects

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INSIGHTS is an initiative by Conceptual Projects that puts the spotlight on artists’ narratives, initiating dialogues between artists and their projects

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