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A Few Things I Know
– Honouring My Family’s History

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Estelle Rosenfeld on a project which she started practical work on at Forkbeard Fantasy’s summer school, and subsequently developed for the Puppets & Dolls exhibition and installation season


A couple of years ago, I found in my studio an old photograph of a family posing on a beach. My father told me it was his father’s family and that the photo was taken around 1930 at Berck-Plage, a then-fashionable seaside resort in northern France. Then, he pointed in turn to three of the six figures in the photo, saying: ‘Deported, deported, deported!’ They died in Auschwitz. I decided to take this photograph as a starting point – my own history, my family. What struck me in this picture was this Golden Age feeling; of people caught between two migrations, one to the west, and another back to the east. I wanted to re-enact the snapshot, so, in my studio in Ramsgate, I started to make puppets embodying my deported relatives.

To prepare I attended the Forkbeard Fantasy Summer School, to learn more about animation techniques. But beside these, I also discovered ‘peep-shows’. At the exhibition, audience members were able to peep into five ‘train carriages’ to see animation movies telling my family story across Europe, to pose with puppets of my family members in an interactive installation, and look at photographs taken in the development of this project.

The film is called A Few Things I Know and is divided in five chapters (one per train). I kept the animation in a very simple and ‘childlike style’ to deal with my interpretation of family memories and stories. I reinterpret my father’s account of how my family immigrated from Poland to Paris at the beginning of the 2oth century and were send back there in 1942 to die in Auschwitz. When I was 15, I went to visit Auschwitz. When I came back I kept dreaming about trains taking you there, it was my nightmare. Sixteen years later, trains become the link between this fragmented history of my family. The movies are hybrid, mixing live landscapes and cows, archive documents and photographs, cut-outs and drawing. Presented here are storyboard sketches from my notebook, and images from the animation.

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The Puppets & Dolls exhibition/installation season was presented at Georges House Gallery in Folkestone, Kent 2–14 October 2009.

More information and documentation on the past events can be found on www.puppetsanddolls.org.uk

This project was supported by the National Lottery, through Arts Council England.


Image credit:
All images courtesy of Estelle Rosenfeld, taken from the artist’s
storyboards and/or animation stills for A Few Things I Know.

 

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