janet grau



Video, installation, 2007

Having explored the question of what is kept and what is discarded (and why) in two previous works, public attic / ausgestellter speicher and portable attic, I turned to my own personal history and created downsizing.

When I moved to Germany in 1999, I left some of my belongings in storage in the USA. In 2006, my parents asked me to come and get the rest of my stuff. I sorted these belongings into two groups – what I could take, and what I had to get rid of – taking exactly as much (size, weight) as the airlines would allow.

The installation downsizing used objects, images, text and video to present the story of this process – as well as the stories behind the objects themselves.

Although the content was autobiographical, the form and tone of the work was somewhat ironic, a bit quirky, and intentionally melodramatic.

The group of belongings I took back to Germany was called The Survivors: the actual objects – as well as the suitcases and boxes used to bring them back – were displayed in the gallery in all their everyday vulnerability. They were accompanied by documentation that revealed the reasons why they had been ‘chosen to survive’.

The objects that had been discarded, on the other hand, were branded as The Sacrificed. These, of course, couldn’t be shown and were therefore only present as the subject of the video. Viewers could look over my shoulder and listen as I read texts addressed to the objects I had disposed of, which contained a great deal of (even trivial) autobiographical information.

"When it was finally time to say goodbye to you, Gammy’s table, and bring you down from Dad’s attic, I gave you to the same little sister who’d painted you twenty-three years earlier. As far as I know, she’s got you out in her screened-in room next to the garage, with stuff piled up on top of you."

downsizing was shown in the group exhibition American Beauty at Galerie Baer in Dresden.

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