During the 10 years that this body of work has been in development, the working title of this photograph was A Family Group. It resonated with my increasing understanding of the role of family in Greek society (contemporary and ancient), and on a more corporeal level, when thinking about my family, my at times prickly place within it and while navigating the profound losses we have shared.
The inscriptions that accompanied the family gravestone at the centre of this photograph are missing. Much of this family’s story remains unknown. To be honest, here we can’t be certain who is mourning whom. Are the seated and veiled figures parents mourning their daughter? or is she mourning her father, her mother, or both? An intense solemnity and profound sadness reaches us through this uncertainty, what touches us is the ache of loss.
At the lower right margin of this photograph is a reproduction of the gelatin dry plate negative (1911) drawn from the temporal limbo an archive of images (in Rome) generated specifically to support the sale of ancient objects to museums.
In it we see the gravestone at the centre of this artwork removed from a cemetery and ready to be trafficked. Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) in 1911 (from a Greek dealer in Paris), this late Classical stele (c. 360BCE) was originally set up, by a family from Attica, under the Attic sky. It is made of Pentellic marble cut from the earth of Attica, Mt Penteli, on the NE outskirts of contemporary Athens still functions as a marble quarry.
For me there is a special materially triggered togetherness at play here, a form of material semiosis wherein our capacity for an embodied sensorial knowing emerges from the mingled awareness that this family and the stone that marked the end of their life are of the same place, or better, that they are the same place, they are autochthonic.
This is where the word ‘displacement’ (common to the titles of all works in this series) really starts to hum, prompting a cascade of questions concerning the relevance and contemporary function of museums. What meaning can be made in the experience of this gravestone in the tourist filled galleries of the Met? What social tensions might emerge from such hermetic heterocosms? What knowing is lost in displacement?