I want to tell you about my own father Because none of you knew him! Je veux vous parler de mon propre père Parce qu’aucun de vous ne le connaissait !
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– Father 11/11/2022. For Dettie Flynn,
The first time I learned English I learned to pronounce Dad & Mom. Then I learned the word Dead and couldn’t understand why Dad and Dead were pronounced almost the same. This is my father Daniel. Behind the picture, it is written:
“Dance of the father with the bride, Rome, 1984. “ Dad died in 1999 but often in my dreams he calls me from the only phone box he tells me he found on this side of death. He doesn’t call me often because there’s a line, often for years.
My father, my brother and me at home in Putney, London c. 1972 Letter from Glasgow: Our Fathers Friday was Armistice Day, marking the day of the truce that signalled the end of the First World War. As I watched the television Remembrance ceremony on Sunday morning I was thinking of writing something to do with war for my Letter from Glasgow. Just after the eleven o’clock silence a message flashed on the screen from Manuela. Dettie’s father had died, on November 11th, this Friday, and the suggestion was to make this week’s Crown Letter an Hommage to Fathers in recognition of her loss. I was reading this mail, and listening to the voice of my own father, who has commentated on television broadcasts of the Remembrance ceremony for several decades. He does other public broadcasts as well: State Funerals, the Opening of Parliament, and General Elections. He is known as a “voice of the nation” but I listen in for my father’s voice. My father’s voice, that sends me straight back to childhood. The voice as it enumerates these marching regiments with their medals, their histories, colours and clothing, is simply the voice of my longed for father; it is the same voice that made up stories for my brother and I as children, that compelled our earliest imagination, a voice that is solid and warm and holds me, keeping the more frightening things of the world at bay for a while. Click here to read more
(Hamburg, 11.11.2022) – The Other Window for Dettie If there is freedom in thought, there is also freedom in the air. And when it is in the air, it can not remain a dream. This is what my father taught me when I was 7 years old and caught him listening to Radio “Free Europe”. He explained to me that I shouldn’t tell anyone, because this would cost him his freedom. 12 years later we were together when there was shooting all around us. My father experienced freedom, unfortunately not long enough. He died at the age of 56.
Cast glass and sunlight. Summer 2022. For Dettie. Full of Light.
Digital Photograph, 2022 Goal, I am continuing to explore fog in my photographs. This growing series of images depicts a kind of atmosphere that is at once present and impossible to grasp. A low-lying cloud that also clouds our vision, fog makes the familiar mysterious, even impenetrable, and invited us to reconsider simple, common locations, in a new light.
Pour Dettie, 11 novembre 2022. Blue. J’ai trouvé cette bille derrière la maison. Un morceau de verre posé là dans l’herbe. C’est sa couleur qui d’abord a retenue mon attention. Elle ressemblait à un oeil, à une planète, un monde. La prenant dans ma main, je me suis demandé ce que cela signifiait, pour ceux qui décident de faire jouer des matchs de foot dans un stade climatisé au Qatar, ou d’organiser les jeux Olympiques d’hiver en plein désert, la notion de réchauffement climatique. Quel genre de regard portent-ils sur la planète? Sur leurs actions? Quel est le sens de leur monde?
Paris, 2022. Your heart shall not die .
The Way Only Girls Could Be On some days I feel I have no inner world inside me, no roaring sea, a vast emptiness lies inside but with textures, it feels like, on those days. One day as we returned in the car, my father very curiously said to me, that he saw a small girl at the clothes shop and she walked in her midi and top, oblivious to the clothes on the hangers, and to the stylish mannequins, as if thinking deeply to herself, “the way only girls could be”. I wonder about the universe on some days, when I rise up from and above my own woes, like a face buried inside bent knees looking up to the sea. I walk in the courtyard in the evening, as the sun recedes and my father waters plants, (mostly planted by my mother who is not in this universe anymore) me thinking, jumping from one thought to another, despite the bluetooth headphones attached to my ears, and the old music flowing from my father’s phone speakers, of all the girls and women who walked amidst mannequins lost in thought who planted plants, with her astute mind who watches the roaring sea who dream of funerals to alleviate pain who live “the way only girls could be”.
The love of a father It is not easy being a father, I imagine, just as it is not always easy being a daughter, or at least father to a daughter, or daughter to a father. (I’m leaving sons and mothers for another day). I am extrapolating from my own experience of being a daughter to my father to think about fathers and fathering. My feelings for my father may not coincide at all with yours. My loss and grief at my father’s illness and death a few years ago may have no bearing on anyone else’s experience, but they might. These few, halting paragraphs represent several days of trying to find a few words to think with, or between, and for others to think beyond. There is a shape in my life that is my father. My father’s life is part of the family architecture, even after he has gone. His passions – politics, friends, the Highlands, art and music – and the focus of his attention inevitably drew mine, and helped define where I looked and listened, even though I wandered off and sought out other things. However much we fought, and we did, it feels to me now like my frustration and rage served a purpose. It was part of working out who I was for myself and letting him know I was on the case, and he couldn’t tell me what was what or where I should go or what I should do. Even if he did. And I’m glad sometimes that he did because it’s not simple being a daughter or a father and the brief outbursts express some of these complicated feelings. Children of course help their parents work out where they’re going and what they should do, even if they (I) don’t always appreciate it. Anyway whatever the ups and downs, I love my father, and my father’s love helped make me and it is in my bones and that is what remains. As my father faded, his words fell away, until all that remained was, ‘I love you,’ until that too was said silently, with eyes and a wistful smile that lit up his face. I asked Robin what it felt like to become a father. He couldn’t remember exactly because being a father is in his bones now, and he is very good at it. I think that it must be hard to be a father, if you are a good one, or good enough. Messages about parenting are mixed, scrambled. There is still an immense if often unspoken social pressure to be a breadwinner, to provide financially for the family. I can imagine wanting to rebel against that expectation, even while acknowledging that providing is necessary; especially if you also feel the demands and hopefully the desire to share in domestic responsibilities of care. But the language of fathering – not ‘the name of the father’ but the intimate care and love of a father – isn’t as developed as it is for mothering. Mothers too need to provide as well as occupy a mothering role that is simplistically thought of as natural, obvious, profound. The responsibilities and pressures aren’t new, but the forms they take are always evolving. Both roles can be confining but don’t have to be, if they’re shared and improvised with (and not just by parents). Here is a bouquet of wildflowers for you, for your father. They smell of the sea, of heather, of bee-seducing nectar, and a little bit of sheep.
(for Dettie), single channel HD video, 8 mins 50 secs, 2022 Walk with me
(Thou Shalt be Healed Quilt Series), Organza, 2022 Let There be Warmth Countless stories and untold hours… …with needle, thread and cloth. There is a history to speak of. There is a story to tell. A kerchief for comfort. A Quilt to Gift; For they go beyond the simple act of sharing work and the offering of warmth. To offer daily refuge in them. The desire to reassure and protect, to embrace and secure. A symbolic shelter against inevitable trials and tribulations. From personal to political. Thou shalt be Healed. (The Quilts of “Thou Shalt be Healed” look at perspectives of emotionality induced in the act of quilting; eventually becoming bodies for refuge, warmth, comfort and protection)
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