Described as “moving…special, and very touching” (Globe and Mail, 2009), Elizabeth Siegfried’s photographic installation Termina addresses the poignant reality of her diminishing family tree and contemplates the ending of one branch of her family lineage: her own.
In many places in the world, families have been getting smaller, a gradual trend that carries with it profound socio-economic implications underscored by a powerful emotional impact. Termina examines this theme using four separate grids of images, one each devoted to Siegfried’s great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and self. The images of Siegfried’s maternal ancestry are taken from vintage family films (16 mm) shot primarily by her grandmother between 1922 and 1945, while the images of the artist herself are taken from more recent 8mm family film footage and include three self-portrait stills.
As the personality, character and spirit of the four women come to life, identifying text beneath each grid lists statistics of progeny, the numbers dwindling with each generation. The combined effect of the Termina installation is that of a genealogical self-portrait, one that places the photographer in the closing chapter of her family’s history.
Elizabeth Siegfried at the Stephen Bulger Gallery, Aug. 11–Sept. 19, 2009
This moving exhibition, by Toronto-based photographer Elizabeth Siegfried, is called Termina. Its gently disturbing title comes from Siegfried’s decision to come to terms with her own childlessness as the last chapter of what appears here to have been a vivid, joyfully child-filled family history.
The exhibition consists of four gridded tableaux, each containing 16 black-and white photographs, drawn from both still photos and from home movies. “I am fortunate,” Siegfried writes, “to have had a family whose generations have loved taking pictures … so when I stumbled upon a forgotten box of 16-millimetre film I knew I had discovered something special.”
Siegfried did discover something special, and very touching. She has devoted one gridded mosaic of these film-derived photos (taken from 1922 to 1945) each to her great-grandmother, her grandmother and her mother. The fourth grid is Siegfried’s own — photos of herself made from 1987 to 1992, plus three recent self-portraits. Her grid is also punctuated with blank, dark spaces, presumably the places that, if things had worked out differently, might have been filled with photos of Siegfried and her children.
— Gary Michael Dault, Globe and Mail
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Elizabeth Siegfried Photography
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