Series of 10 photographs / 8 video art pieces /short movie ~ 20 min

Who are we? How are we affected by our genealogy, and how does our past shape our present condition?

Genetic inheritance aside, how do we experience our families and relationships?   What can the objects we collect or artifacts we inherit tell us about our stories—- the stories we tell to ourselves, and the stories we tell to others?

The upcoming project “Mythographies and Memorabilia” by Esra Rotthoff poses these questions by looking deeply and steadily into one person at a time, and by inviting them to share their stories through their personal objects.

The camera is simultaneously an observing eye and a reflecting mirror, thus allowing the stories to unfold and an intimate journey to be taken through one’s past, present and future.

The protagonist is Julia Morrison, an actress based in New York City.  Without a family in the traditional sense, Julia has explored her familial relationships through numerous letters and artifacts left of her family members. Do we know her better at the end of the journey? Does she? How do her familial objects and stories shape her memories and, after the objects are lone gone and the camera is put away, what is left?  What can we discover in her story?

This project is an open invitation to dive into the essence of what make us all human - and maybe, at the end, to find ourselves in each other.


Julia Morrison:

Memory is not a fixed element of personhood.  Once you recall an event from your past, your memory of that event changes—- this is a scientific fact.  Your memory is realized by your emotional state during the moment of recollection.  That emotion inevitably leaves a mark on the memory, like a stamp, changing it indefinitely, which is why it’s important not to dwell on negative experiences as the process nearly always lends itself to a black hole of despair.  It also reminds us to be more gentle with each other, as most tension in relationships is caused by misunderstandings that arise out of and are exacerbated by this phenomenon.

Therefore, the more you remember a painful experience through the eyes of guilt, resentment, fear, or anger, the more painful that memory becomes.  This is in addition to all of the emotions and attitudes we hold towards ourselves and others, everything that we project onto the moment when that memory first took shape.

So before you know it, we have a totally distorted view of things.

There is no absolute reality. The past is but a canvas. We must look upon our lives with fresh eyes and learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and each other. For me, exploring the objects, poetry and letters of my family offers me an glimpse through time and an opportunity to forgo the shortcomings of the past. In this reconstruction, there is no doubt the reservoir of love found therein. In breaking this cycle of pain I have nothing to lose but my chains, and a world of wonder to gain.  In resurrecting these artifacts with an open heart, I am awakened.