Maria Theodora / Photographs
1862/63 (?) and 1996/97

Series of one sepia photograph and 120 black and white photographs

Costume : Baby Jim Aditya
Textile research : Lanny Suryo Kusumo
Heartfelt thanks to Farah Riziani Rachmat, Florent Stoffer, Jerry Thung et Barbara, Retty Hakim, Winda Gracias, Hanny, to the Centre Culturel Français and the Goethe-Institut Jakarta and to all friends and participants.
Produced within the programme Villa Médicis hors des murs, AFAA (Institut français), French Minstery of Foreign Affairs.

Collection of the artist, Neuflize Vie collection and collection MAC VAL, musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France.

In a famous passage of La Chambre claire, Roland Barthes describes the quest to find the “real” face of his deceased mother by scrutinizing family photos. A similar impulse has driven Jakob Gautel to produce Maria Theodora. This work is the result of autobiographical research as well as the reflexion of what a photographic image can actually reveal to us. The point of departure is Gautel’s research on the childhood of an ancestor’s exotic origins. Maria Theodora was born of mixed blood, to a German father and an indigenous mother in colonial Indonesia around the middle of the 19th century. The Gautel family has kept fragments of this great-great-grandmother’s personl diary, and most of all a photograph taken shortly after her arrival in Germany when, as an adolescent, she was obliged to leave her mother and the country of her birth to come with her father to Europe. These incomplete documents raise numerous questions about the story of this young girl. Through them, we are also left guessing about the faceless fantom of Maria Theodora’s mother.
The artist has tried to elucidate this mysterious story with a book, a video and a photographic project. For the latter, Gautel took the original portrait of Maria Theodora as a starting point, reenacting the setting with Asian and European models. The alternation between women of different origins conveys the double nature of Maria Theodora’s mixed origins. The slightly stiff poses also evoke the young girl’s difficult posture, taken between two worlds. More importantly, the multiplication of these photographic reconstitutions is for the artist a way of digging deeper into the story of his ancestor’s image. But the mosaic portrait conceived diffracts Maria Theodora’s image even more. Her real nature continues to evade one, leaving the mystery of her photograph fully intact.

Larisa Dryansky 2006
Text for the book Photographies modernes et contemporaines. La collection Neuflize Vie, Flammarion, 2007

Voir aussi
#Installations #Memory #Photography #Who’s Who ? #Politics #Clothes #Public Collections