AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FICTION

IMAGINATION

GUEST COLUMN

ICHMICH

 

by Ksenia Galiaeva

WELCOME to my new blog-like website www.ichmich.net - a book-in-progress,
loosely built around the subject of Autobiographical Fiction on ‘a narrative of identity’, family myths and one’s inner voice as storyteller;
the role of imagination and association; linear and non-linear ways of storytelling;
the specifics of autobiography (self-portrait and self-image, identity and alter ego;
‘the space extending between the self and the world’ and ‘Selbst-Kunst’ – the self as a dramatized persona);
memory, remembrance and the ego of perception;
the inevitability of subjectivity and the internal quality of coincidence;
with a lot of pictures, notes, quotes and a guest column.

 

The mirror brims with brightness;
a bumblebee has entered the room and
bumps against the ceiling.
Everything is as it should be, nothing
will ever change, nobody will ever die.
V. Nabokov, Speak, Memory

 

The importance of visual and verbal literacy grows with the number of people using digital identities. Fragmentation and uprootedness are characteristic of globalisation; the need for authenticity, finding one’s own voice, ‘a narrative of identity’ and a coherent life story is noticeable in every profession or activity – from self-help lifestyle to architecture to politics.

Autobiography is a tool to give life meaning.

 The goal of this project is to use art and literary works of autobiographical fiction for guidance in survival; to learn from it (by osmosis, as Brodsky puts it) during the process; to look at ‘shaping one’s life story’ as a means to come to terms with oneself, hopefully with satisfaction or happiness as a result.

Lived experience offers the basis for knowledge and recognition. You can only recognize what you know, and use the mini model of your own experience to project onto the bigger world. Richard Sennett emphasises the connection between a ‘narrative of identity’ and happiness; Karen Armstrong writes that story-making reveals ‘an underlying pattern, that gave us a sense that, against all the depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, life had meaning and value.’ The purpose of myths, then, is coming to terms with death, reflecting on death, and shaping memories with a message for the future.

Autobiography implies a high degree of sincerity. Sincerity is often recognized as a sign of authenticity. An autobiographical work presupposes a reader or viewer; it can be part of image building, or a style practice – a desire for a story well told, determined by the work process dictating its own logic. To these fictional elements one might add the unreliable, fluctuating nature of memory, mythmaking, and coincidence recognized in retrospect.

As a basis (except my own work) I want to use the stories/pictures/books of Pierre Bonnard, Stendhal, Vladimir Nabokov, Alexander Pushkin, Joseph Brodsky, Bernard Malamud, Art Spiegelman and many others. This is a condensed list of my heroes, whose verbal and visual vocabulary I share; whom I grew up with or have a biographical affinity with. As existing information on the subject seems endless, I limit myself to those examples I am best acquainted with.

 

My work fits the description of autobiographical fiction. I recognize the influence of Russian storytelling traditions and East-European (Jewish) humour.

For fourteen years I have been making photos of my parents in the paradisiacal surroundings of our Russian summerhouse. The use of a certain kind of situation turns my models into fictional characters. My knowledge of this family micro-cosmos enables me to project my ideas onto this subject.

I use mostly ‘feel good moments’. This can be seen as escapism, but for me it is a way to deal with my fears of time, death and human nature. My photos are vanitas without the usual symbols. My themes are the flow of time, continuity and memory. Duration and memory are embedded in perception.

I am fascinated by the way memories change through repetition and grow to mythical proportions, and by our ability to steer memory in different directions.

 

The title ICHMICH comes from Bach’s Matthäus-Passion aria – ‘Gerne will ich mich bequemen Kreuz und Becher anzunehmen’.

For questions or comments please contact me or my gallery.