time tells - a project by diana blok
“After my father’s death, I began a process of rescuing memories, searching for clues which would lead me to discover more of who he was and as a result, more of who I was. Memories of his past were carried through photographs and negatives stored in boxes. Seven years after his death, my mother followed, leaving behind her personal archive in the form of a precious collection of handmade garments.
Her legacy was embodied in the delicately stitched and embroidered clothes she created for us for the key moments in our lives: baptism, communion, weddings. But all the while, my Catholic, Argentine mother’s needle was patterning secrets, unutterable events of the past: indelible images that would eventually surface and give light to her prophetic words: “el tiempo lo dira”, that is, ‘Time will tell.’
My father was a young Dutchman hired by the Turkish Embassy as their personal assistant first in The Hague (1934-1935), and then, for a second term, from 1936 until 1946, in Buenos Aires. Tall, blond and blue-eyed, he was my mother’s Prince Charming. They married and together raised four daughters. They lived a charmed life as, after the war, my father transferred to the Royal Netherlands Embassy as a diplomat and rose steadily through the ranks of the Dutch Foreign Service in Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. By the time he retired, he had accumulated a string of decorations including the prestigious Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
Silently however, my father suffered under the weight of an unacknowledged identity: he was Jewish. He therefore carried alone the knowledge that his parents and only brother were murdered in Auschwitz. He had escaped the Holocaust through the good graces of the Turkish ambassador who had re-employed him for the duration of the war. However, in the anti -Semitic climate of Argentina, a revelation that he was in fact Jewish, would have burst the fairytale bubble of our existence.
My parents came from disparate worlds but they loved each other dearly. For my sisters and me, his tragic story, her inability to acknowledge his roots, and the garments she so lovingly made hold the key to our identity. Without this specific past and the repercussions it had in their lives and ours as their children, we would not be who we are today.
For this reason, I am piecing together the unspoken tale of my parents’ lives thru photographs of the garments my mother crafted, with archival and abstract images found along several journeys made in search of answers to the profound connectedness I have always felt with my Jewish ancestors.
In 2009 on a journey to Istanbul in a most unexpected way, I met the children of the Turkish ambassador, now 80 and 82 years old, (former ambassadors themselves). They had grown up knowing my father, first in The Hague and later in Buenos Aires. As they told their stories and unlocked some of the mysteries surrounding my father, I knew the time had come for me, as a visual artist to tell the story. I heard my mother’s voice: ‘El tiempo lo dira’.
In a documentary film, cinematographer Sonia Herman Dolz documents my recent meeting with the Turkish ambassador’s children who shared memories about my father during their 10-year period together.
The book that goes with the project is designed by Stephen de Smet and published by Diana Blok & Witteveen Visual Art Center. The total project is evolving into multiple layered installation combining photography, film and sound.”
Time Tells by Diana Blok can be seen until november 6th in Amsterdam at:
Mondriaan Foundation – Amsterdam Fund for the Arts – 7 Hills Foundation – NL/Turkey 400