Theo & Suzanne

videos and installations

This is the story of Theo and Suzanne.

1

My father, Theo, who died 30 years before I started this installation, began photographing slides at the start of his marriage in 1959. Until his death in 1989, he photographed around 5,000 images.

The subjects are typical: portraits of the family, the house, and the holidays. He was not particularly a good photographer (on the contrary) but the 5,000 slides give an image of a small “standard” family in the 60s, 70s and 80s. And above all: they trace the married life of my mother, Suzanne De Volder.

My father numbered around 2,700 slides, he never classified the rest.

2

I ordered the slides in 7 “chapters”, I projected them and I filmed them. We see the imperfections and degradations of the images and the projection: they are not clear and are over / underexposed, upside down (left / right or up / down). Some are partially covered with moss or fungus, or improperly installed in the frame. From time to time, the projector shuts down, and at times, I have to flip slides. But I leave most of it as it is.

I record the sound of the projector and the slides, the sound forms an integral part of the video.

3

Then I confronted my mother (who was 97 years old when I recorded her) with her past as I had filmed it through the images of my father. She hadn’t seen the photos since her death. During 5 evenings, I film the way she fights to (re) absorb a maximum of her past.

We see her interested, astonished, lost; she recognizes certain images and has forgotten others; she struggles not to fall asleep, falls asleep and wakes up again. My mom’s recording was done without sound.

4

The night after the 5th evening, my mother has a stroke. She is no longer able to attend the recordings. For the last 2 chapters, I film an empty seat.

Technical Aspects

  • 2 monitors facing each other (duration: about 9 hours)
  • OR 7 pairs of 2 monitors facing each other, in the form of a corridor. Each pair of monitors plays in a loop of about 1 to 1 1/2 hour.

Participants

  • Actress: Suzanne De Volder
  • Photos: Theo Janssens, Suzanne De Volder, Guido Janssens, unknown artists