THE HIDDEN MOTHER
One of my personal highlights of last year’s Venice Biennale 2013: Linda Fregni Nagler (*1976, Stockholm, Sweden) – The Hidden Mother (Area at the Arsenale, curated by the artist Cindy Sherman).
GOOD NEWS | Now available as photobook, published by MACK Books and Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. With a text by Massimiliano Gioni and Geoffrey Batchen and a conversation between Francesco Zanot and the artist Linda Fregni Nagler
Assuming the role of a collector or an archivist, Lind Fregni Nagler has massed hundreds of amateur and commercial photographs from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including daguerreotypes, tintypes, albumen prints, and early examples of Brownie snapshots. Within this body of material, Fregni Nagler focuses on specific themes or genres, such as the tableaux vivants favoured by photographers in late nineteenth-century Yokohama or the magic lantern slide presentations that accompanied educational lectures soon after photographer’s invention.
The collection that Fregni Nagler has compiled under the title The Hidden Mother (2006-2013) consists of nearly one thousand original images of babies (or dogs!, editor’s note) being held by figures who are hidden but visible in the background. The long exposure time required by early photographic techniques presented a difficulty to parents who wanted pictures of their children alone. However, when seated on their concealed mothers’ laps or held in their arms, the subjects of these photographs were able to remain still as long as was required to create the images.
Shrouded by drapery, lurking in the side of the frame, or, in case, obscured behind a mailbox, the mothers, and occasionally fathers, attempt to disappear. To modern viewers, no longer riveted by the miraculous photographic capture of the child’s likeness, these covered figures are jarringly noticeable. The images also parallel another genre of early photography: the postmortem. When photography began its shadowy but remarkably accurate images of the past were seen as ghostly, and it was common to photograph the dead (especially children) who were dressed and posed to appear as though they were alive. The attempted erasure of living people in these photographs, like the use of photography to revive the dead, reveals the human impulse to push back against photography’s claim to present an unmediated representation of reality and to create instead a reality that corresponds to our own desires. (Text : SB, Venice Biennial 2013)
Photobook | Linda Fregni Nagler. The Hidden Mother
- MACK Books, November 2013
- Co-publisher | Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
- Texts | Massimiliano Gioni, Geoffrey Batchen and a conversation between Francesco Zanot and Linda Fregni Nagler
- Softcover with a die cut dustjacket | 432 pages, 1002 colour plates, 24 x 29 cm
- ISBN | 978-1-907946-53-0, 45€ MACK or Buchhandlung Walther König