marianne csaky



Basically, the My Skins series began – without me knowing about it – in 1995, when my grandfather, who had brought me up, died. Of course, I started working on the project much later, in the 2000s, but it was in 1995 that I inherited from his immense set of tools and glass photo negatives and cut films. The antecedent of this project was a series of photos in which I blew up parts of his glass negatives and sheet films on photo paper, using his old equipment, and I painted and drawn additional elements to the developed images in early 90s. Now I made plaster and resin copies of each of his tools, and, for years, I recorded on video myself working and "as if" I was working with the tools. This “as if” is just the same perspective as the one that appears in family photos, where people's actions and people themselves are arranged, made to pose. In other words, this is exactly how family photos refer to the real life and relationships of the people in the given family. Family photos, in this sense, are depictions, explicit manifestations of desires for things that are not there or are not the way they should be, or of the ways things could be or could not be. In this sense, family photos depict some aspects of the relationships that were lost, or the parts that could not be born, and thus became parts of these relationships through their absence. However artificial the image of the desires and feelings appearing in family photos might be, it is, in fact, real. At the same time, I have also had to face the fact that in my own life too, even today I can only use the tools and skills that I learnt in my childhood or inherited, and these comprise the rich set of tools and 'skills' that determine, sometimes limit, my relations to people and the world.
For years, I could not get away from the world that appears in my grandfather's photos. In fact, I have not been able to break away from that world so far. My aim was to grasp in my works the context of family relationships in which I am defined not by what I am like, but by the fact that it is me who appears in these relationships. I want to capture the original safety that is naturally given by the fact that I was born in a family and does not depend on what I am like or what I become. This is the origin of my series of leather wall carpets, in which me and my elder brother appear only through the initials of our names in the scenes photographed by my grandfather.
The thin leather that I use, to me, has the same sensitive character and fragility as human skin, my own skin, in which the imprint of history is embossed. An important element of this work is that the years of my childhood were spent under authoritarian communist rule, and my family, especially my father and grandfather were victims of persecution. Obviously, this was something the actual facts of which could not be discussed openly with children or in the family, or in any community that I or my family members belonged to, and so, no genuine feeling of a shared history and belonging together through historical facts was never born in me. And, as far as I could see, my father and my grandfather could never see their lives as ones related to other people's lives through a shared history. Through family photo images we experience memories and traumas of our parents and grandparents, in order to heal with these post-memories the traumas that we suffered because of their traumas.
My Skins