F4 presented a series of 4 interwoven installations at the Kaunas Biennial called The Camellia.
These works revolve around a fictional narrative written in 4 parts, each part deals with an intersecting moment in time viewed from the perspective of the family members.
The Camellia Text
The more he concentrated, the more his daughters face wavered in the camera’s viewfinder, imperceptibly at first, in and out of focus, as in a mirage. After a while, he became incapacitated in the task, it appeared that the ground, his own backyard became unstable. Now the struggle to control his vision and so execute this simple thing, extended even to his ability to stand upright. A sweat came over him and stung his eyes; it felt that in this decisive moment, his sanity depended on his ability to succeed. The air he breathed became thick and cloying, with each intake seeming less like the contiguous life force of all his years and more like some kind of solid matter. Time itself seemed dense, like a heavy weight on his body. All at once he realised that rather than trying to control the apparatus in front of him, he was clinging to it, as though his life, his very relationship with the world, depended upon it.
All the while the daughter was drawing; she drew incessantly. Seeing nothing of her father’s predicament, she did however; momentarily experience the illusion of a movement in the ground. Perhaps because of the implausibility of this sensation, the moment triggered a déjà vu. She relived one of her earliest memories of riding on the back of her brother’s bicycle. Oddly the thrill of that ride completely eluded her and she remained almost unaware of machine, rider and passing landscape. Instead, hunching over a small pad, she never ceased the drawing she was engaged in for a moment, pen constantly in contact with paper.
Too young to actually write, she merely affected the look of it, she drew writing, pages and pages of it, all different sizes, colours and styles, on whatever surface she could procure. Objects, ‘notes’, drawings, songs, movement, spoken word and games, all inter-related in an immensely complex mimesis, a simulacrum, an unconscious reassembly of her life.
When the bicycle reached its destination, the writing served as a map of the journey, every bump accurately recorded in minute detail. Just at that moment, the shadow of her brothers passing body returned her to the present and for the first time she noticed her father.
The brother walked through the scene, aware of the other two only in form; He hummed as he always did when on one of his meandering perambulations, a private sound resulting from a controlled flow of air through the vocal chords, in and out of the nostrils. Perfect tonal modulation and complex, layered rhythms synchronised with his footsteps, which added a subtle base line, charting the terrain like a seismoscope. The vibration peaked and troughed in response to the intensity and tone of his personal concert, the effect resonated in his head, subtly numbing the cartilage in the front of his skull, the delineation between inside and outside becoming less distinct. The technique was completely private, his and his alone. Yet somehow it seemed to allow him moments of intimate contact with those aspects of lived experience, which were more abstract. Time itself for example. He passed between his sister and father, walking on.
She looked up at that moment, her mending in hand. Through the window at which she was sitting she saw her husband and two children, beyond the old camellia. She shifted her body and the scene curiously undulated in a wave-like motion. She realised it was the glass; it had been installed at the time her great grandfather had built the house. She found she could counter the movement of her son by gently changing her position, causing his figure to expand and contract. Eventually her focus shifted to the glass itself and she craned her neck so that the angle of incidence was more oblique and she could examine the physical imperfection in the glass. When she looked closely in this way, she could see the glass was not flat, the surface was wavy and the glass, always a liquid, had become thicker at the bottom. She could also see tiny air bubbles, trapped inside the transparent material. She imagined for a moment that it was air her great grandfather had breathed and remembered the one time she had met him in the very same place she now sat. He had been sitting on the sofa with his daughter, who herself seemed impossibly old. At the time she was a girl of only four years, the kiss goodnight had been a frightening prospect. The skeletal hand reached out and touched her shoulder as she leaned forward and it was then the smell registered, all at once everything seemed to intermingle with this earth-like odour. Time slowed and appeared to take on a substance of it’s own, becoming thick and viscous like molten glass. The girl was momentarily suspended in an immutable aquarium of shared air and breath, and then all at once it was over. Suddenly, the scent of his age had revolted her and her kiss involuntarily turned into a splutter. In that split second the past and the present collided and sitting by that same window, she physically re-enacted the bodily jolt of that childlike revulsion. It was at this moment that she felt the prick of pain from her forgotten needle, jolting her back to the present as the small drop of blood welled from her fingertip.
Some days later when he was developing the photograph, he observed something he had not seen before, he felt it too, in his bones, something eternal. He noticed in the red light of the darkroom, his own silhouette on the wet photographic print, which depicted a girl in the act of drawing. Spreading over his daughters white dress was the faint shadow of her brother’s body, behind her the old camellia standing resolute. Looking closer in the top, right hand part of the picture, he saw the outline of his wife’s face in the shadow areas of the old tree’s reflected image; in a moment, the traces of his family, all four hopelessly entangled in a temporal embrace.