The Absent Other.
‘Objects, particularly those that are part of everyday, material culture, are things we carry with us, and it is in this sense that they take on the cultural markers of memory and of time as well as performing the rituals of our everyday. Remember the first security blanket of childhood and the swaddling cloth of birth. Objects can be ‘possessed’ by the self in many surprising ways. This ‘possession’ is, according to Susan Stewart, a guarantee of the presence of the absent other. The power bestowed on such objects, implies Stewart, is precisely dependent on the fact that they are a possession, an extension of the self but which also reminds us of the threat of loss. [i] This leads me to propose that objects regarded as personal memorabilia can be addressed in relation to memory, absence grief, anger and remembrance and are ‘supplemented by a narrative discourse’ through the language of longing.[ii] This supplement further contributes to a surplus of significance with its reference to the past, rites of passage and ceremony in so far as it permits objects to conjure a kind of magic aura and phantasms of fictional histories beyond any objective reality’.
From ‘One and another: a Handshake with the Ancestors’, Janis Jefferies – The Gifts,(Azadeh, 2010) Exhibition catalogue.
Missing / Present (from my diary entries Jan 21st/30th 2004)
‘Delia, your Papar Jaan, whose wish in her Will was to be cremated and have her ashes thrown into the sea at Birling Gap near Eastbourne, is still missing, at sea, presumed dead.
She came to your uncle Simon, in a dream this week to ask him what happened, what the story of her death was? So he told her. She was taken aback a little, but also somewhat amused, and in good humour… She was all in deep pink. Funny because I bought loads of pink clothing last weekend (and I never normally wear pink) and have been wearing it everyday. Someone told me it is the colour of protection.
Also, I dreamt that I was searching for her in the ‘Valley of Death’ (how much more biblical can you get…). A valley through which were passing all the souls of the people who died in the Tsunami. I went towards one who I thought was mum, sensing her. As I did, the shadows of the souls, including hers, passed through my body – warm and moist. I was totally unafraid.
Delia, you are a 7-week-old golden angel, becoming more and more alert every day…. The most beautiful, delicate features, a pixie nose, dark blue eyes and cupid lips. A long body and the most elegant, long fingers. Will you be an artist? You have such a calm, mellow nature, you are all potential. Such a gift at such an intense and sad time. Grief balanced by joy, balanced by grief again.
Stuart said that Mums energy is transformed through death like rain into a cloud. I saw this very image the next day as Maria, you and I climbed over the hill in Brighton towards the sea. He says he saw her ‘in me’ and it’s true I have felt her energy very close to me. If only she were here, cooking…I only have the empty rice cooker she left with me till her next visit. I will honor her by perfecting the favorite dishes she used to make (she made them all in the week before you arrived, some are still in the freezer, ready for this time). Fesinjan, gormeh sabsi, galieh mahi, kookoo sabsi. She was the greatest cook.’
When you are with everyone but me
You are with no-one
When you are with no-one but me
You are with everyone
Instead of being so bound up with everyone
When you become that many, you’re nothing.
Rumi (from ‘The Essential Rumi ‘ trans. Coleman Barks)
[i] Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives on the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993) 126.
[ii] Ibid., 136.