The Pain of Loss is a Mother, Fucker – Peter Watkins’ “The Unforgetting”

@ Peter Watkins

 

You tow the loss like the Rock of Gibraltar around your neck hoping it doesn’t pull your body to the black emptiness at the bottom of the ocean. At times you struggle against the algae and various plankton that want a piece of you to feed on while you gasp for air like the first day of your life.

 

By Brad Feuerhelm, ASX, February 2015

Do you understand what it is to sever your umbilical lineage? I lost my mother at a comparatively young age and the circumstances of which are never important. It doesn’t add to or take away from my bereaving, nor do these questions enable others when they lose their maternal connection. What you can measure however, is the amount of inconsolable loss that occurs when you lose the physical embodiment and connection to your biological origins. You pack up their belongings, you sequester your emotions to move on and place them in the ground. No matter what somebody tells you, no matter what sentiments are left, this pain of this loss never leaves you. You also never forget. It is your origin, the womb. It’s your basis for everything you are and everything you will continue to be after. Sure, we have fathers. In my case a donor that failed to re-appear, but it is the tie to our maternal link that supports our being. When you lose this, everything in life opens in front of you while simultaneously; you tow the loss like the Rock of Gibraltar around your neck hoping it doesn’t pull your body to the black emptiness at the bottom of the ocean. At times you struggle against the algae and various plankton that want a piece of you to feed on while you gasp for air like the first day of your life. Barthes knew this. He was consumed for life with thoughts of “mamman, mamman” after her death and he lost his cord quite late in life.

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@ Peter Watkins

 

People try and console…”everything will be fine”…”time heals all wounds”…”you will get through this”…but, you know what? That shit is a fucking lie. The sting never truly heals, but you must find a way to cope.

 

Peter Watkins’ “The Unforgetting” is a body of work that has ruined how I deal with most artwork I see placed in front of me since. My response to his archive of images of his mother’s objects, pictures of her and her father, and the family homestead in Germany and the trace memory they hold for him left me cold…and not cold in the sense that I couldn’t “get with it”, but rather cold in the sense that it drudged up all my own insecurities and memories I try to hide myself from. Its’ reckoning made me feel…and that is something I can rarely muster in a art world consumed with being clever over that of ever giving up something personal. The aim is true. It is diaristic and had you not had to experience this ordeal yourself yet, it might leave you a bit at ends to understand. People try and console…”everything will be fine”…”time heals all wounds”…”you will get through this”…but, you know what…that shit is a fucking lie. The sting never truly heals, but you must find a way to cope.

In The Unforgetting, Watkins has assembled these artifacts and memories thereof with his nearly clinical eye, observing the totems of his loss with a calculated affinity…a care…a love that does something great…it takes all of us into the personal sphere, while also giving some recompense of hope to the realization that we are not alone as we suffer, and that inevitably…if we are all “lucky” enough, we will come to an understanding of this as a trajectory of our own lives and the growth it enables and the subsequent purity of reasoning it forms. To say the images are beautiful would also be an understatement; they are monumental in every sense of the word.

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(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Peter Watkins.)

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