Somewhere Under The Rainbow 2016 - 2021
All the images from the third chapter, ‘Somewhere under the Rainbow’ (2016–21) – which is still being developed and of which a selection is currently being shown and published as a preview – are even more multi-layered in terms of their iconography and content, if such a thing were possible. In its most recent work, memymom has added further dimensions and strata of meaning. It moves freely within the space–time of the route it has followed previously by, for instance, creating an image that echoes an earlier one. What’s more, it opens up the time in which the two have been collaborating – there is work here that focuses on Marilène’s memories from the 1960s – or else each of them separately uses props or locations that refer to Marilène’s ‘back story’. Certain images are flashbacks to plots they developed at an earlier stage, such as The Hitcher (2017), which harks back to Hitch in 1996.
Today, memymom rightly and implicitly positions its production between other art forms. One for Currin (2017) evokes the painting of the American artist John Currin and Ici Tati (2017) the film language of Jacques Tati; La Vérity (2016) is an overt tribute to Jacques-Louis David’s painting The Death of Marat (1793), while Closing in on David (2017) is set at the house of David Lynch, whom memymom explicitly cites as a general source of inspiration. Referring to or drawing on other art works or practices shows first and foremost that memymom has grown aware of the aesthetic, artistic potential of its own work.
It comes as no surprise that memymom is able to justify every detail in every photograph. It wouldn’t be appropriate and would take us too far from here to analyse and explain every photograph in ‘Somewhere under the Rainbow’ iconographically. Nor is this crucial to the viewer’s reading of the images. But it is typical of how memymom works to construct an image that is then left entirely to the viewer’s personal interpretation.
Although anyone viewing the photographs from the third chapter won’t be able to tell from the visual language alone who is playing the character depicted and who is the photographer (assuming it’s not a third person or an automatic shutter), this strand in the two women’s work includes a variety of self-portraits. In hers, in which Lisa has no hand whatsoever, Marilène makes ample use of masks and old-fashioned tapestries, table-mats, and rugs. Lisa’s self-portraits, by contrast, are primarily determined by the spaces in which she shoots them – the genius loci, the attributes, textures, and structures. The viewer is aware only through extra-artistic information that these are self-portraits. It would be just as possible to read them as images produced by mother and daughter as it is to view them as individual works that are by Marilène alone or Lisa alone. The conclusion that follows from this is an obvious one: Marilène Coolens and Lisa De Boeck unfailingly demonstrate in ‘Somewhere under the Rainbow’ that they are working as two equal partners and that their mother–daughter bond has given way to an equally close and unconditional artistic collaboration between two women. Over the past twenty-eight years, memymom have developed into a professional artists’ collective.
Just like the American artist Cindy Sherman (1954) – known for her countless photographic portraits of herself in ever-changing guises (which Sherman insists are not ‘self-portraits’ as such) – memymom uses the camera to achieve a final photographic result that doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with the camera or the medium of photography. memymom works intuitively and organically, as Sherman does: ‘My way of working is that I don’t know what I’m trying to say until it’s almost done.’ There is no carefully formulated programme. An idea arises, Coolens and De Boeck research it, pick out the necessary props, and set up their shoot. Ideas mature as they are worked on, within their world and within their work. The story of memymom arose in tempore non suspecto and is utterly authentic.
memymom’s images never resolve into total clarity; there will always be something elusive. That’s what keeps us looking and asking ourselves what is really going on between the artists themselves, between mother and daughter, and between their photographic images and us, their viewers.