In 1944 a nineteen-year-old with a heart disease wrote a four versed poem, describing how he experienced his condition. In 1966, the hole in his heart caused his death, at which point he has a one-year-old daughter. This daughter is me. I cannot remember my father. The hole in his heart became a hole in my identity.
Through transferring his written word onto textile, I trace his hand in an attempt to come close to a person I would have preferred to know, a hand I would have liked to remember rustling my hair. I try to interpret the movement of the hand; I can tell by the way the ink is placed onto the paper. Where his hand stopped, or he pushed firmly, the writing turns out thick and dark. Where he moved the pen swiftly and light over the paper, the line is thin. Sometimes he moved the pen so fast that the ink did not have time to settle. The embroidery technique, however, is so slow that I had time to contemplate every word my father used. It is apparent how the poem is written by a young person. He was standing on the doorstep of adult life, with a handicap most of us luckily do not have to endure. The encounter with my father’s poem became an encounter with the feeling of darkness a young person with physical impairments can fall into. At the time my father felt these emotions, Norway was occupied, and the war was ravaging Europe. I wish I could have let him know that he was going to be able to move out, have an education, job, meet a woman who loved him, buy a home, experience sex and have a child and two grandchildren. The story about my father’s life causes the embroidered poem to carry hope. It is a story about how a personal darkness is not necessarily the end.
Nevertheless, my father’s early passing caused me a great loss. In a poem about a stripy pyjama, I express my experience of being without a father. As the one who was left behind, I try to cling onto and magnify what I have left from my father. In the exhibition I have materialised the stipes and built an installation in the colours of the pyjamas. I have been searching for my father everywhere; in other people’s stories about him, in the places he has been, the things he owned and in his photo album. In the exhibition, there are five images photographed by my father. The images are witnesses to another time; a time and an environment where physical strength was important for the rebuilding of the country.
By sharing my personal story, I want to give others with related experiences space for contemplating. The exhibition falls into the body of my artistic work, dealing with each singular person’s inviolable value and irreplaceability.
I would like to thank Norsk Kulturråd and Fritt Ord for their support to this project.
(Translated by Ida Uvaas)