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Ira Hoffecker Artist Statement
I am interested in how Germans deal with collective memory, with suppressing and forgetting the past as opposed to remembering and striving to come to terms with the past.
Formerly my work critically examined and analyzed the different identities that places like Berlin can take on over time within paintings. With this new body of work, I scrutinized German collective memory, investigated power structures and the overstepping of personal boundaries. I combined ideas pertaining to homeland and my own personal memory. This body of work consists of paintings, drawings and the video History as Personal Memory.
In my video, I introduced working with my body to see if I could use it as a tool of investigation. My voice recites text by Nietzsche, Foucault and my own writings that I included as a voice-over to the imagery. My hand is captured working on a painting. I poured tar onto the canvas and rubbed it into the surface. In one scene, I walked on train tracks. I projected my grandfather's portrait onto my body. I am interested in how I can utilize my body as a tool to reactivate memory. Video allowed my body to implement the dialogue of my story, perform the story. Exploration through the body work presented gave immediacy to the probing questions I assessed. I wanted to see my film and my painting work together as a tool of investigation into my memory. The experiences of my past shaped and formed me as the human being I am today, the experience that can be seen as living practice in the memory of my self-constructed identity.
I investigated Foucault’s ideas concerning a variety of power structure models, which contributes to the dialogue my work embodies. I am interested in how people can usurp power and impose power over others. I explored the rationale associated with people who are not necessarily in a position of power but who enable those in that role by assisting them. I was also interested in power structures inherent in the church and the power certain individuals have over others. I was interested in finding out about the psychological consequences of those who had been overpowered by others and what happens when a child’s boundaries are compromised, reflecting on my experience of childhood sexual abuse.
With my hands, I applied tar to the surfaces of canvas. The tar is dark black and I am attracted to the viscosity of this medium. Tar was the first medium I used when I started painting many years ago. I used tar when I also melted lead and poured it on metal. Lead is of major importance in Germanic mythology. I did not use lead in the new work, but its association with tar in my process development seemed to be enough. Working with tar helped me reflect on what it means to be German.
It was important to me to take heed of the recommendation of my professors to ‘own’ my work. I interpreted their suggestions to mean that my work practice would benefit from the incorporation of personal aspects of my own life, creating greater vitality and valitiy to the process and project. These personal revelations, a critical examination of my understanding of the world, and my self-perception developed through formative experiences would advance my ideas and working processes. After all the videos I had created during my first year of my MFA, I was encouraged to tell the story that only I can tell. I needed to give myself the time and space for intense reflection and investigation through my art practise, to see if I can work through the torment of residual memories which persist in inflicting anguish upon me. Recurring hateful, rejected memories assert themselves at inexplicable times.
Correlations between my childhood abuse which I endeavor to forget and the history of Germany, which many Germans are trying to erase from their memories exist in the film. Within my experience of being German, I have observed Germans deal with our collective memory by censoring and ignoring the consequence of our complex warring past rather than being vigilant, continually committed to knowledge, deliberate, recognise and concede our adverse history. In my film, I tore pages from a history book about the Third Reich, a time in Germany’s history that many Germans would prefer to eradicate from memory. Many Germans of my generation would like to expunge this part of our history and to put a leaden blanket onto the past. Yet, it is important to face and to discuss this past, to show how it was possible for the Nazis to come to power, in order to prevent its imposed trauma and desecration from ever happening again. Consistent dialogue will help prevent a repetition of their oppression and atrocities.
This work references my childhood memories of trauma that I attempted to forget for so many years - without success. Through research and the making of History as Personal Memory, I have learned that only by consciously working through memories, writing them down, finally articulating them in my work, can my healing start to take place.