Nothing is Missing

Multiple-screen video installation, 25–35 minutes (looped), 2006–2010
Multi-lingual with English subtitles

Visitors are invited to sit in armchairs or on sofas. Around them, women are speaking to someone else. The off-screen interlocutors are people close to these women, but their intimate relationships have been interrupted due to the migration of the women’s children. The women are talking to a grand-child they never got to see grow up, to a child-in-law they did not choose or approve of, to an emigrated child, or, in one case, across a gap of three generations. The intimacy fraught with a slight uneasiness is characteristic of the situation. Sometimes you hear the other voice, sometimes you don’t.

The women, among whom two live in Russia, live in a great variety of countries. Communication unfolds between the woman and her relative, but, due to the installation set-up, also among the video portraits and between the women and the visitors, all at once. The performative aspect on all different levels brings about a merging of communications. The armchairs can be moved or turned, as if one were actually visiting the women on the screen – the visitors can concentrate their attention on one woman or alternate between several of them. The women are consistently filmed in close-up, as portraits. The relentlessly permanent image of their faces provides a modest monument to the profundity of their losses. It also forces viewers to look these women in the face, in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say. Even though their languages are foreign and full of expressions that seem strange, theirs is a discourse we can all relate to affectively.

There is no narrative voice; the mothers do all the talking. Any sense of tourism is carefully avoided: while intensely visual, the films show neither monumentality nor picturesque scenery. No spectacle is offered to gratify a desire for beauty; instead, the films engage intimately with the individuals in front of the camera. All sound is diegetic.

The sense of intimacy is enhanced not only by the personal subject under discussion – the departure of a child who left for Western Europe – but also by the “privacy” of the conversations. The filmmaker set the shot, switched the camera on, and left the room, only to return after the allotted time. This gesture of abandoning authority and leaving what happens to the serendipity of the interaction between two people makes the filming highly performative.

The women, sitting in their own homes, speak their own languages. All videos are supra-titled. Hearing a cacophony of voices, then concentrating on one of the mothers, the visitor goes through a subliminal apprenticeship in auditive distinction.

View more:
The Mothers
Installation views


Exhibited at:

Université de Lyon 3, Jean Moulin, Salle d’exposition Manufacture des Tabacs, Lyon, France, 1-20 June 2017

Summer School “Affective Histories, Politics of Memory”, Nieborów Castle, Poland, curated by Roma Sendyka and her Curatorial Collective, 1-5 July, 2014

“Crossroads: Europe, Migration and Culture”, Network for Migration and Culture, University of Copenhagen, 23-26 October 2013; with a satellite installation at Trampoline House, a culture house for asylum seekers and refugees, 24-26 October 2013

Brunnenpassage, Vienna, May 13-17 20012

Care Crisis, Centre for Contemporary Art FUTURA, Prague, March 9 - May 27 2012

“Space, Ritual, Absence,” curated by James Sey and Leora Farber, Jozi:Art Lab, Johannesburg, South Africa, March 9–31, 2011

“Big Brother’s Underwear: Drawing Lines between Public and Private” conference, Maastricht University College, Maastricht, the Netherlands,
January 25, 2011

“Nothing is Missing,” curated by Adam Budak, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria, 11–21 November, 2010

“Regarding the Pain of Others,” curated by Patricia de Ruijter, Test-Portal now Art gallery, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, April 3 – May 15, 2010

University of Toronto Arts Centre (hosted by the Jackman Institute for the humanities), March 15-23, 2009

“Anabasis: Rituals Of Homecoming” exhibition curated by Adam Budak, Festival Dialogu Czterech Kultur 09, Lodz, Poland, September 5 – October 4, 2009

“Glocal Imaginaries” conference, Manchester, UK, September 9-11, 2009

“Going the Distance: Video Works in Migratory Aesthetics.” Tampere Art Museum, Tampere, Finland, December 5, 2008 – February 15, 2009

Kakelhallen gallery, Mariehamn, Aaland, October, 2008

“Going the Distance: Video Works in Migratory Aesthetics.” Fremantle Fibonacci Centre, Fremantle, Australia, December 12 – 21, 2008

“Confronting Universalities: Aesthetics and Politics in the Age of Globalisation” symposium, Aarhus Universitet, Aarhus, Denmark, September 22–26, 2008

Open House London Festival, UCL, London, UK, September 20, 2008

“2Move: Ireland,” Belfast Exposed, Belfast, UK, May 3 – June 6, 2008

2MOVE/ Migratory Aesthetics”, Stenersen Museet, Oslo, Norway, March 27 – May 11, 2008

“Mother Cuts: Experiments in Film and Video”, curated by Siona Wilson, The Visual Arts Gallery, New Jersey University, Jersey City, NJ, USA, March 5 – April 11, 2008

The Netherlands Institute for Higher Education (NIHA), Second Floor Living Room, Ankara, Turkey, November 26 – December 1, 2007

2MOVE Migratie + Video” Zuiderzeemuseum, Enkhuizen, The Netherlands, September 20, 2007 – January 6, 2008

ANTI-EKONOMIJA IVOTA” film program, Belgrade, Serbia, July 16–21, 2007

Bucharest Biennale 3. In “Dis-economy of Life” program. Bucharest, Romania, June 21–25, 2007

2MOVE: Estéticas Migratorias”, Sala Verónicas and Centro Párraga, Murcia, Spain, March 8 – May 13, 2007

Opening ceremony of the Regional Conference on Migrations in South East Europe, Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade, February 26, 2007

“De nieuwe feiten van Migratie” program of “Een Ander Justitie”, Department of Justice, The Hague, the Netherlands, December 5–29, 2006

Artpool Art Research Center, Budapest, Hungary, November 15, 2006

Studio Dauhaus, Sofia, Bulgaria, November 4, 2006

Miroslav Kraljevic Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia, October 27 – November 9, 2006

Museum of Contemporary Arts, Skopje, Macedonia, October 10, 2006

Postgraduate Lounge, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia September 7 – October 8, 2006

“The Afterlife of Memory” conference, Old Mining Building, University of Leeds, July 5–8, 2006

Conference space, University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt, June 1–3, 2006

Valokuvakeskus Peri (Peri Center for Photography), Turku, Finland, May 9–17, 2006

“19th Annual Images Festival of Independent Film & Video”, A-Space Gallery, Toronto, April 13–22, 2006

Allumnae Hall, Cogut Center, Brown University, Providence, April 10–14, 2006

Wilde Gallery, Spencer Art Studio, Williamstown, April 3–7, 2006

“Trajectories of Commitment and Complicity” conference, Amsterdam, March 29–31, 2006

“Migratory Aesthetics” exhibition, curated by Griselda Pollock, University Gallery, Leeds, UK, January 11 – March 15, 2006 (see Migratory Aesthetics, exhibition catalogue, 6–8, Leeds: University of Leeds, 2006)