Malina Mayer



Phantasmagoria (Ancient greek: phántasma, “ghost”) describes an incidental sequence of associative images occurring in dreams and when feverish. The practice of phantasmagoria was moreover referred to as a form of horror theatre that used magic lanterns to project frightening images as demons and ghosts onto walls, smoke and semi-transparent screens. Lending to the idea of this practice, the exhibited works are part of an ongoing project depicting the photographer’s process of re-settling in her birth place — a place of conflicting, haunting feelings. Upon return to her place of birth (“Heimat“) in rural North-Western Germany in late March this year, the photographer spent time roaming in her surroundings shaped by lakes, fields and forests. It was there in nature where she confronted the ghosts of her yesterdays — or was it them confronting her?.
In her enigmatic work the line between memory, dream and reality is blurred reminding of Tondelli’s depiction of one’s home land: There is a sort of dark attachment to one's homeland, and there are the mists that turn (…) into metaphysical sceneries of a stage on which the typical script of each province is acted: that of waiting and dream. — Pier Vittorio Tondelli, 1990, Un weekend postmoderno. Cronache dagli anni Ottanta
Phantasmagoria does not only show the process of rewriting but moreover about discovering parts of her history that remain unrevealed. The act of remembering resembles an archeology of self, a process closely intertwined with the act of forgetting, for it is only when a certain memory is recalled, its true fragility becomes apparent. Weaving together pieces of our history we find us recalling conversations, smells and the quality of light.
Japanese paper („Washi“), made from kōzo fibers, serves as the material of choice in the process of this project. The contrasty negatives and the natural texture of the kōzo paper film impart a tactile and eerie effect to the images, which are evocative of Sigmund Freud’s (1919) description of the uncanny in his essay ‘Das Unheimliche’: ‘The German word unheimlich is [...] the opposite of heimlich, heimisch, meaning „familiar“, „native“ „belonging to home“; and we are tempted to conclude that what is uncanny is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar’ (2). Along with the lengthy development process of the Washi film stood the acceptance of failure in the handling of the new material. The photographer aimlessly produced these images without needing them to meet any expectations on concepts of reality. The visual essay emerged as a retelling of old stories, re-discovering of old places, reliving old memories. She came to the realization, that the (de-)construction of self is strongly connected to one‘s childhood memories, dreams and myths. Exploring the jigsaw of fragmented and opaque reminisecences let her acknowledge that the construction of self just as much as feeling at home depicts liminal process — nothing static — always holding a veil of blur.

In the close vicinity of the photographer’s birth place, a lime plant operates that covers the surroundings in a light coat of chalk (a result of the processed lime). In her early childhood, the photographer’s parents told her that naughty children were brought to this place, their bones were ground and the dusty coats would be the remnant. Horrified by this story ever since, the photographer had up to now never dared to approach the plant. Now approaching the place for the first time, she did not encounter any children, just more and more chalk as she approached the plant. A uneasy feeling remained.