B&W were awarded one of four family residencies at BIRCA Bækkelund International Residency Center for Artists on the island of Bornholm in June 2021. It was an unusual residency for artists who include their children in their working process – just what we aim to do within the framework of our thematic complex „Das Familiensystem ist das Kunstsystem. Das Kunstsystem ist das Familiensystem“. We decided to use our stay on beautiful Bornholm to initiate our collective work on family stories, identity and belonging, the „Stammbaum“ project, together with our two daughters, Ronja (13) and Sille (almost 2).
Following our general interest in non-hierarchical structures, we attempted to invite the girls not only to participate in pre-defined segments, but also in the conceptual development of the piece. In practice, it turned out that practical work was much easier to share than theoretical thinking. When materials are collected, selected, arranged and mounted, everybody works together in physical, often instinct driven ways. The degrees of abstraction the individual participants are willing or able to engage in is not important.
The BIRCA residency is situated in a former farm in a rural area of Bornholm, surrounded by fields, a small forest, and few neighbours. We used the rich natural environment to explore the sculptural use of natural materials like wood and stones to create new visions of our family, its members, and their interrelations. Maybe the most important factor that sets our family tree apart from traditional models, where male heir follows male ancestor, is that ours needs to accommodate new members, changing constellations, and potentially everyone who is important to any family member, blood relation or not. In short, it needs to move. We discovered the shape of the mobile, with its need for intricate balance between all moving parts, its ways of moving beyond the control of its creators and its potentially endless possibilities of expansion, as an ideal way to express our ideas of the contemporary family, and used our found materials, a studio space and locations in garden and forest to build constructions, both precariously leaning and gently floating in space.
All four of us engaged in the documentation of the process. Ronja was closest to the working process with her instant camera, Dorte and Jörn shot photos and videos mainly of results with regular cell phone cameras, and Sille drew abstract reactions of the process around her. All documents stand side by side in their own right, but only together give a feeling of the entire work.
B&W thank Statens Kunstfonds, BIRCA, Susanne Danig and My Grønholdt for the opportunity.