Read this text in French (original).
I started to be interested in my family pictures when I was leafing through a family album and found myself overwhelmed by an emotion of which I could not define the origin.
These photographs were taken 40 years earlier, and I could not even remember the moments they were shot, nor what preceded or followed those moments.
But the photos reawakened an anguish of something both familiar and totally unknown, the kind of disquieting strangeness that Freud spoke about. Those moments, fixed on paper, represented me, spoke about me and my family, told things about my identity, my place in the world, my family history and its secrets, the fears that constructed me, and many other things that contributed to who I am today.
I decided to explore the memories of my childhood to help me understand who I am and to define my current identity.
To begin, I carry out "excavations". Like an archeologist, I dig out the pictures in which I appear from family albums and the shoe boxes full of photographs. I choose snapshots because they are related to memories and to loss.
These photographs are fragments of my past. I interpret them from a subjective perspective as confessions. I order them, classify them, scan them, then I print them. I don’t do anything directly on the original photo; I transpose this reality on a different paper. Sometimes I crop a detail that calls out to me, and I choose my format. The work of interpretation begins with these steps.
Once these choices of images are made, I start to tell my version of the story. I turn my attention to my own history, sometimes with 40 years of distance and the life experiences that changed my perception of events. The past of a human being, unlike the remains of an antique temple, is neither permanent nor finished, but reconstructed in the present time.
For the next step, I add needlework: embroidery and beads.
Embroidering is primarily a feminine activity. In the past, the embroiderer was seen as a paragon of virtue. Waiting was tied to this activity: women embroidered, hoping for the return of the man to the home. Embroidery is intimately linked to the milieu in which I grew up. Girls in a "good family" used to learn how to sew and embroider — essential activities for "perfect women". My mother embroidered her trousseau.
There is nothing subversive about this activity, but I pervert it with my purpose.
I use its decorative function to re-interpret my own history and to expose its failings.
The two activities — interpretation and needlework — come together again in a kind of dispute: embroidery is the sign of a good education yet the words that I speak don’t show me to be what I was supposed to be: a well behaved girl, a wise spouse and a loving mother.
With each stitch I make a hole with a needle. Each hole is a putting to death of my demons. It’s like an exorcism. I make holes in paper until I am not hurting any more.
— Carolle Benitah
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