In February 1993, Peter Watkins’s mother walked from Zandvoort beach into the North Sea to her death.
The Unforgetting is the artist’s long-term exploration of trauma, loss, and shared familial memory, all woven into a series of works that have been created over a number of years, and now for the first time come together in the form of a book.
At its core, the project explores the tragic loss of his mother to suicide following an intense period of mental instability and institutionalization.
The personal charge with which these images are made remains disguised, however, encouraging a dialogue between the universal and the highly personal – a photograph of cans of Super-8 withhold the images they contain; ceremonial glasses appear transparent and emptied of liquid; and the reoccurring motif of suspension and weightlessness comes to counteract the anchored and definitive quality of the still life works.
These object assemblages have a totemic and monumental appearance. Isolated from a greater whole, their reimagining through the representational capacity of photography moves them into the realm of the associative, the artefact, and positions them as fragments of evidence.
Wood is present throughout and points to the Germanic, the folkloric, of growth and of time itself, both passing and splitting.
These works are universal in their stoic unwillingness to disclose their deeply personal roots; but woven beneath their surfaces are the stories and narratives that come to constitute the biography of the departed.
This series finds its core, therefore, in the interplay between presences and absences – the absence of the mother, and the traces of her life explored in states of Unforgetting.