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Memorial Gestures 2 – Maud Haya-Baviera

I am a multidisciplinary visual artist. For years, I have worked with a variety of different mediums, ranging from film and video, sculpture, photography and sound. This has taught me much about different techniques and how to playfully incorporate one into another. Working with many mediums can be challenging. I often feel that I am working without a safety net, as I constantly need to learn new skills. This difficulty is also beneficial, as it helps me avoid making work that is formulaic, habitual, or repetitive. Also, it is important for me that I use different methods depending on the subject I am working with and the type of emotions or aesthetic experience I want to convey.

The Waves, production still, 2019, 4K Video, Duration: 19 minutes ©Maud Haya-Baviera

The political and socio-economic crises that have engulfed Europe over the last ten years have informed a step change in my practice. In 2019, reflecting on my own family history, I took the decision to make a video work based on the repercussions of immigration over different generations. It has taken me years to feel confident enough to address, within my practice, subjects that have political or ethical implications. Coming from a family of political refugees and having myself moved away from the country where I was born, I have always felt concerned by the ethical responsibility of broaching such complex questions. The Waves, pictured above, is the portrait of three individuals born of political refugees. The film implicates the audience in difficult narratives as a way to generate open and empathetic responses.

Towner International, exhibition view, Towner Eastbourne, photo: Rob Harris.
Things fall apart (work pictured) is a re-reading of the novel Robinson Crusoe exposing its brutal racism. Borrowing its name from Chinua Achebe’s anti-colonial 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart montages visuals collated from archival materials and contemporary tourism adverts with a score edited from over twenty audio tracks including romantic arias from the opera Norma.

Since The Waves, my work has continued to focus on revealing difficult subjects or bringing to the forefront unheard or seldom heard voices. That said, it is also important for me to make work that is engaging. I do not wish to burden audiences with the trauma of others. I am always striving to employ modes of representation that will emotionally engage the viewers. I want to make work that I find aesthetically pleasing, that retains some poetic ambiguity, that asks questions instead of imposing meanings.

PostNatures (curated by Victoria Lucas), 2023/2024 exhibition view, Graves Gallery. In collaboration with Heavy Water, an artist collective comprising Joanna Whittle, Victoria Lucas and Maud Haya-Baviera. The artworks presented in the vitrine are in response to residencies undertaken in archives in Cardiff and Sheffield.

Another important aspect of my current practice is that I often draw from archives and collections to create artworks that reclaim past narratives and interpret them in a way that is relevant to the time we live in. Taking part in Memorial Gestures at the Holocaust Centre North is a fantastic opportunity, as the residency facilitates and encourages this way of working, while also offering creative freedom. Another crucial benefit is the regular critical exchange with the other Artists and with the team here at the centre. I am truly honoured to be one of the selected artists.

Production Still – Work in progress ©Maud Haya-Baviera

It is always difficult to talk about a work while in the midst of making it. It is fragile, full of uncertainties and engaged on a path that might later be abandoned. I travelled to France last winter to film the last concentration camp where my grandfather was interned. In parallel to this, I have found some extremely moving letters at the Holocaust Centre North Archive. In these letters, one can read the desperate pleas of Rachel Mendel’s parents to leave their country and find refuge elsewhere, anywhere else. I would like to create a conversation between these letters and the filming I did in the winter. Also residing at the back of my mind is the current refugee crisis and the rise of far-right political movements in Europe. Death, wars, destruction… I am currently trying to find a way to make a new body of work that will respond to these themes whilst maintaining a sense of levity and hope.

Holocaust Centre North Archive, courtesy of Rachel Mendel
Production Still – Work in progress ©Maud Haya-Baviera

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