The Nameless Family Album

A large-scale installation in the Helsinki City Museum, 15.3 - 7.4.2024

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This project is based on the theme of old photographs. I’m sure that everyone has had the experience of browsing through a family photo album. People who passed away long ago look at us from afar. Looking at old photos makes you want to travel back in time, to see something through the surface of the photographic paper. To attempt to do so is clearly futile; many of the people in old photos are unknown, the circumstances in which they were shot are unclear, and the dates are inaccurate. But the characters in old images are fascinating; they turn to us and discreetly tell us something.

The "Nameless Family Album" installation consists of more than 60 artworks in which the characters from old photographs are traced in a thin line. These drawings are large and float in space with no plane or base, and visitors can walk between them. The tracing line glows blue, allowing the observer to see through the image. The facial features of the characters are missing, leaving merely an outline, the oval of a face. The image is devoid of unnecessary details, allowing everyone to hypothesize about the characters while recalling their own long-gone relatives. Visitors appear to be within a photo album, surrounded by mysterious personages from the past.

Artworks are welded from 3-4 mm thick steel wire. Special primer prevents the steel from corroding, and a unique coating makes the wire glow in ultraviolet light (UV-lamps are an integral part of the exhibition). The aural background made by Petri Laakso adds to the ambience, combining fragments from Max Richter’s music piece Sleep with a murmur composed of different languages.

The artworks are quite robust and may be hung inside or outside, in a park, an old city quarter, or museum hall. The space should be really dark and have at least 3,5m height. Artworks should be hung on parallel wires, there will be 12-16 layers of transparent pictures hanging on different height.

The artist's own family albums provided the photos for the installation. The photos tell the story of a multicultural family from the end of the 19th century until the 1960s. Altogether there are now over 60 artworks of different sizes, from 40x50cm to 180x120cm.

A short footage from the exhibition is here:

Soundscape: Petri Laakso
Welding: Valerij Sokol
Mounting: Mikhail Sherstjuk
Photo & video: Alexander Reichstein, Henri Tuomi/HKM, Eino Pessi