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Brief project description
I scanned photos from my family archive spanning 8 decades across Eastern and Western Europe. I then digitally cut out details like toys, furniture and body parts of family members, and write something about them. Then I print those "objects" on fine art paper, mount them on Kapa material and cut them out. I arrange the Kapa-objects and photograph them.
The Forensic Excavations Inventory is an artistic research and storytelling technique I developed to analyse the effect of the Armenian Genocide and socialist totalitarism on my everyday life and the lives of those mine intersects. I grew up in a united Berlin but the remnants of the totalitarian socialist regime were evident everywhere in my birth country Bulgaria, Germany, and my own family life.

The work also reflects on photographic problems of indexicality and iconography.

Full project description
I scanned photos from my family archive spanning 8 decades in Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv and Berlin. I then digitally cut out details like toys, furniture and body parts of family members, and write something about them. What the object reminds me of, what I remember in view of its context, or knowledge about its origin or meaning. I call those details objects regardless if they are organic or inorganic matter.
Then I print those "objects" on fine art paper, mount them on Kapa material and cut them out. I arrange the Kapa-objects and photograph them, sometimes including myself. Object indexes correspond with the object markers placed inside the photos and give more context.

The Forensic Excavations Inventory is a storytelling tool box made to analyse the effect of the Armenian Genocide and socialist totalitarism on my everyday life, and the lives of those mine intersects.
It is also a photographic technique that deals with problems of indexicality and iconography of photography and an adaptable storytelling technique fit to generate knowledge that is otherwise not obtainable.

The part about it not being otherwise obtainable is an artistic research technique but is also important to me personally, because I have to reconstruct part of my own history without being able to discuss memories with my family.

Project genesis
From the very beginning the project was intended as a way of situating myself within my artistic community. At the start of my studies in Leipzig I felt like I was existing in an 'alternate' reality. I felt excluded and different from my peers and professors but was not able to pin-point the reason for this depressed state. I knew it was a call back to a dysfunctional upbringing and school bullying, but in 2017 none of the original circumstances were remotely the same. I intuited that my feelings of alienation consisted of a mix of inherited socio-economic struggle, the reality of being a migrant, the reality of being a post-wall adult with all the remnants of the soviet life, genocidal roots, residual family trauma and my own attitude.

However I felt the alienation persisted also because my experience growing up as a perceived foreigner in my own country has somehow been erased. There were no other voices joining me or viewpoints I could freely consult in my immediate academic surroundings that simply understood my revelation of being on the outside, trying to fit in. I felt alone because I WAS alone, in an environment not in the least hostile, but yet deeply ignorant of anyone outside their own socio-economical class. I overcame my resentment eventually and see it as my responsibility to stand up for myself. My experiences continue to be erased if I don't persist and add my experience of living and creating in Germany, post-wall and what is called 'post-migantional', to the art world.

Artistically, I had toyed for a while with my diminished family photo archive and hadn't found a way in. The terms'reconstruction' and 'destruction' were important anchors during this phase of trial and error. I knew my desire was to go back, go back into the past of these photos that were full of smiley faces frozen in time. Only I knew what lingered below their surface, so I wanted break apart the surface and excavate the other truths. In the process I learned a lot about my past and upbringing, and simultaneously they helped me position myself within my community. As a consequence of exhibiting the piece in its different stages I became more open and vulnerable, and my suppressed past floated to the surface, and united with my current self, so to speak. It was a deeply therapeutic and yet inherently artistic experience creating this tool box.

Biographical background
I was born in Sofia, the People's Republic of Bulgaria, and after the wall fell, grew up alone with my mother in the former east part of Berlin, with occasional visits from my grandmother and yearly holidays in Bulgaria until I was 12. My grandmother worked briefly in the former German Democratic Republic as an opera singer and my mother partially grew up and later on studied and worked there as well.

The family I knew were all survivors and descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the former Ottoman Empire which began in 1915. My grandparent's family members were either murdered and buried in anonymous mass graves or after fleeing, scattered around the world without contact to each other.

I was raised as a German-Armenian without knowledge about who my father was. My name stems from Peter Schuett, a West-German communist poet who, at the urging of my mother and her family, accepted paternity.
After my birth Peter was interrogated by the GDR national intelligence service 'Stasi' about the fact that he was last seen with my mother two years before my birth, but whatever he has told them I will have to read in the Stasi document about me ('Stasi-Akte'). Apparently they accepted the lie as well.
In totalitarian Bulgaria as well as in East Germany the secret police was the government's executive and ensured fear and repression in the population.
My mother was a simultaneous translator for official state functions and suffered under the conformism and secrecy demanded of everyone.

Identity and Context
'Destruction' is in the word deconstruction. I am excavating the missing pieces in my biography by doing the complete opposite of what archaeologists are doing - they search the grounds for shards of a once-whole object to reconstruct it by drawing the missing pieces. In contrast, I had to destroy my archetypical family picture. The once-complete photos expand spatially and open up an inbetween level, a void, in which I can express myself. Without context, the objects are perspectively distorted and need to be nominally identified ('TV set', 'hand'). While the source of the objects are family photos, they only work as pieces of evidence through their extraction from the originals. Only through the dissection of the original family photos can these objects be presented as new information, new pieces of evidence in an investigation concerning identity.

Art in the Underground / Kunst im Untergrund, 2019
For the competition Kunst im Untergrund yearly held by the nGbK Berlin I developed in 2019 a new multi-step collage technique. The result are four billboard designs that are exhibited September 15 - Nov 4 at the Berlin metro station Stadtmitte.

I made physical objects of the digitally extricated items and carried these objects in front of politically charged places like the GDR intelligence service Stasi, and in front of the gates of the German weapons companies that armed the Ottoman army.* I carried the objects also to sites of my childhood in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, a district that is now populated with English speaking expats left and right, where I once had been marked as an 'Auslaender', someone not belonging to Germany.

Of the photos I made fine art prints that I arranged on a cardboard backdrop. Along with the photos I included self-designed evidence markers with historical photos and object indexes. I photographed these collages and they became the final motif of the bilboards. Beneath the motifs I put text boxes that correspond with the object numbers and explain something about each depicted object.
This layered approach to this collage underlines my own approach towards the discussed subject such as weapons trade, migration, dysfunctional families, everyday culture.
*The German Empire sent key figures to the Ottoman empire to ensure the German monopoly on weapons which were used to facilitate the genocide against Armenians, Assyrians and Greek Ottoman citizens. The German companies that profited off this relationship between the German and the Ottoman empire were the Krupp company (today Thyssenkrupp), Mauser and Loewe (today Rheinmetall). This is whay I have also used historical photos of the genocide to cut out weaponry and personal effects of the German and Turkish people responsible and perpetrators from. There is a correlation of my own diminished family archive and the archival recordings of the genocide. My family photo archive is small because I keep no contact with my family, and the photos depicting the genocidal activities in the Ottoman Empire are also few because reports were forbidden and photos were smuggled across borders.

Up in Arms, 2019
For a second exhibition project in 2019 at the Kunstraum Bethanien I have created another photo series. I made a set outfitted with light swallowing black fabric and placed the objects inside. The project is a speculative recreation of my different childhood homes, playing with perspective and anonymity.

The black space in which the objects float around me is also a blank space in which I can redefine myself. Disembodied body parts of my family and inorganic plastic toys and appliances are interchangeable in their ambivalence. Another element that is embodied in all objects is the notion of time. The cut out objects show reflections and shadows that were evident of the time of recording the photograph. These shadows and reflections, along with the grain and scuffs on the scanned photo paper were frozen in time; yet cut out and transported into a new environment they become a temporary time machine in that they create a new plane of time that displays the past undistinguished. However the newly created photos are marked as published by me in the year 2019. That means that the year 2019 philosophically becomes an end point and a starting point all at once, laying the past out and uncovering its meanings.

The objects are sinisterly bubbling artifacts of my childhood everyday life on the one hand, and documents that attest to trauma in migrant familys on the other. They connect consumership, arms trade, nationalism and state security between Eurasia, Eastern and Western Europe.

Object indexes
The text responding to the object markers inside the photos is written to resemble a mix of lexicalic indexes and free form poems. For the purpose of the installation Up in Arms, the texts were printed as posters, spatially removed from the photos. In the future I want the photos and texts to occupy space next to each other, similar to the way they are arranged for the billboards in the Art in the Underground photo series.

The text was originally written in German. The English translation does not differ and one recognizes globally known consumer phenomena like Mickey Mouse and Barbie. Particularities, like now defunct magazines and supermarket chains, only known to people living in a certain place, at a certain time are not indicated just as they are also not explicitly discussed in the German version.

I have tried to compose a story telling where chance and intention fall together. It is a deconstructed story that allows for sinister, trivial and confusing details to bubble up indiscriminately, similar to the way memories strike one at times out of the blue.

Exhibition history
2019 Neue Gesellschaft fuer bildende Kunst Berlin nGbK. Up in Arms. Berlin, DE
2019 Neue Gesellschaft fuer bildende Kunst Berlin nGbK. Kunst im Untergrund (Art in the Underground). Berlin, DE
2018 Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts. Cultural Memory. Leipzig, DE
2017 Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts. Studienpreis-Award. Leipzig, DE catalogue

Awards
2019 Neue Gesellschaft fuer bildende Kunst Berlin nGbK. Up in Arms/Art in the Underground competition (Up in Arms/Kunst im Untergrund). Status: Winner. Award: 4000EUR
2017 Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. Studienpreis-Award. Status: 2nd/3rd place. Award: 2500EUR. catalogue

Publications
2018 Studienpreis-Award 2017. Academy of Fine Arts. Leipzig, DE

Notes on the Images
The images show several different iterations of the installation. The first few are photos for the exhibition Up in Arms at Kunstraum Bethanien, with installation views following. The subsequent images are billboard designs, produced for the public art installation at the underground metro station Stadtmitte U6 as part of the nGbK Berlin exhibition Kunst im Untergrund / Art in the Underground.
I have included the mock-up renderings that I have applied with to the Art in the Underground competition and photos from the photo shoot for the billboards.
Also shown: layout experiments of the objects and installation views of the exhibition Cultural Memory in the present, 2017, and the Studienpreis-Award exhibition, also 2017, with the timber frame plinth (photo credit: Alexander Pannier).

'Mit Roland Barthes koennte man sagen, dass in dieser Arbeit ein Spiel zwischen 'Punctum' und 'Studium' stattfindet: Je mehr wir der Analyse des in den Bildern Verborgenen zusehen, desto mehr wird uns die Umgebung vertraut und trifft uns im naechsten Bild als Erinnerung. Der im Titel benannte Prozess einer 'totalen Dekonstruktion' dient gleichsam dazu, die vor der gewaltsamen Zerstoerung gerettete familiaere Erinnerung zu bewahren. Exemplarisch wird deutlich, was Erinnerung ist, was kontextualisiert werden kann, aber auch was als Luecke bleibt - und als fortlaufende Ausgrabung eine offene Form erhaelt.'
Clemens v. Wedemeyer, 2018