Supported by a bursary from a-n The Artists Information Company I'm developing my narrative art skills with training, peer-to-peer learning and mentorship to help me progress my graphic novel/zine work in progress. My work is focused on the commemoration of a my famous footballing ancestor and explores wider issues around the custodianship of memory, the concept of family and the role of graphic novels in helping us explore complex and sensitive issues.
The Concept of Family
Being related to a famous (dead) footballer gives me an acknowledged higher place in the hierarchy of the commemorators of him. Within a dedicatory network woven with threads of fan memories, other family members' stories, friends' recollections, historical records and facts, the concept of the 'family commemorator' ranks high. Family - father, mother, sister, brother ranks the highest, but as my relative's parents and only sibling are dead the mantle of 'the family' is passed down to aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews , step-relatives and those related by marriage. Overtime everyone it seems is - or will be- related to this revered deceased player. I am what some call a 'second generation commemorator' as my mother grew up with him and knew him. It is her memories of him that inspired me on this 'dark quest'. She was his cousin and therefore, so am I. I am a third cousin and a bloodline relative. That makes me family - but not 'the family'. A phrase regularly used by others who say their endeavors at memory making are 'endorsed' by 'the family'. There are many - not one 'the'. This has always troubled me and I have seen the dynamics of the family concept shift (for good and bad) over the years until it has little true meaning. For me living family members who actually knew him and still grieve for him are 'his' remaining family. For me the concept of 'the family' fell away when his parents and sibling died. He never married and he had no children. My family connection has simply bestowed me the opportunity to interview and record the memories of family members. I underestimated the responsibility I would then feel as a memory preserver and custodian as they too passed away.
Work In Progress I have spent many years researching and studying how my ancestor is commemorated - driven by an initial curiosity about why others - unrelated to him - would travel many miles to place flowers on his grave. Something that still continues sixty five years after his death.I have a PhD 'in' his commemoration and some would say that I am a scholar but it is through my art practice that I really believe I can say more and better understand and convey what commemoration means for the living.