How was the idea for this project, that evolves around the topic of generational chains and the interest to work with amateurs born? Could you also reveal something about the research you did and the decision to work with film as medium?
Maria: Year 2018, I was living in Vilnius with my family when I got the idea for this project. The polarization concerning the refugee situation in the world had been getting bigger and bigger. Related to this, I really wanted to create something that would show we all have the same needs for security, love, touch, and seal of approval. From this ancle, I got to thinking of families as a unit with whom to work with. What if to meet and work with families from different backgrounds. I had thought that this is a topic I won’t deal within my artistic work, maybe because it comes so close by me being a mother of four myself. That has felt somehow fare for me in the artistic discourse. But I’m happy I did, because this process was one of the most complex and disarming projects, I have been part of.
It was clear, that I don’t want to use stage as a medium for this project. Somehow film / video as medium was the first choice, I could see the work being executed in. It was also clear, that I want to work with a collaborator for who video is the main tool. I started to look for people in Vilnius and that’s how I invited Vytautas Puidokas to take part to the project.
In the beginning I imagined the work to be sort of a living painting where the emotions are stretched in time. From this initial idea we started to frame it together.
I have been working with amateurs in several contexts and with very different groups, for example seniors, torture survivors in Finland, no fixed abode organization and mostly with people from substance abuse rehabilitation etc. Mainly I have chosen to do this work in a very grassroot level, without heading towards outcomes unless the process has led to it naturally.
So, in this sense this work comes from a different angle of working for me. I needed the families for this idea of work to get complied. It was very important, that our proposal would make sense to the people, to keep it very transparent and two-way.
Vytautas: Video wise it was a very minimalistic work. Priority was always the movement, so we tried to adapt to it, sometimes deliberately avoiding cinematic language. We also chose black background, so the viewers gaze would be on the people, the movement, and the intimacy it creates. The frame of the video basically became our stage, that people would enter and go out from.
Could you tell us more about the encounters and conversations you had with the different families we see in the film? And tell who these families are, from which backgrounds they are coming?
Maria: During the first part of the project, we were meeting a lot of families and having discussions with them. Not all felt they wanted to participate, and some couldn’t take part in the end. For example, most of the families from the refugee center couldn’t take part to the actual outcome for their own security. I feel that this first part of the project was very important and had a lot of beautiful encounters of sharing and speaking about the topic of generational chains and what people are carrying with themselves. The working process for From Mother to Daughtermade me realize that in the future I would want to continue working like this. Taking really time for encounters to deepen, for things to happen.
Vytautas: We started visiting Rukla refugee center and I went to 40+ adult dances outside of Vilnius center. Also, my own family participated because we just had a small baby and it felt fascinating how it got all the family and different generations together.
In some ways, I could say that we were striving for some sort of dynamics. Every family would bring some unique element, be it a strong emotional bond, special circumstances that the family went through or even a talent that they share. On the other hand, I think the same could be done with any family, as in every case we try to dig deeper, and find the invisible bond that lies deep within any family.
Maria: During the talks we spoke about the family structures, generational chains, and family life in general. It wasn’t so easy to get to name the connecting links in each family. Many are connected to such everyday life, that it was difficult for people to grasp them. Habits that have always been in certain way.
And of course, with this project we got to deal with just some layers of each family, since families are such complex networks of individuals, several relationships that are crossing each other’s and so on. From the beginning it was clear, that we consider family as broad concept. Everyone defines themselves, what family is for them.
How was the working process with the families in the studio? How did you come to each of the families’ narrative, working with them on intimacies and closeness and how did you translate this together into movement?
Vytautas: I remember we first tried to arrange meetings at people’s houses, but somehow it didn’t work. We had to create distance, so the families could reflect themselves, and for this, meeting in the studio was way better. First meeting was always just to speak, see how the families feel together. During this phase, certain abstract keywords or ideas about what defines each family would pop up, and later we tried to convert this into movements.
Maria: Yes, we took some keywords from the discussions, and I started to imagine different kinds of movement proposals based on them. Then we started to try out/ to embody them in the studio with the families. Working in the studio was very intense and beautiful. Such a big trust was present, and all the families really surrendered to the movement tryouts.
About the narratives, for example for one family the connecting link was nature. They loved to spend time together in the nature and these were the things/ knowledge, that grandparents wanted to share with their children and grandchildren. We started the movement tryouts through this topic and little by little got into layers of closeness and intimacy, that lay inside/ around this topic.
Most important was to have conversations about: does these movement proposals represent your family and do they correspond with your feelings? Our aim was, that the family would watch the ready work and feel, that it is truly something that they could relate to. So, it was crucial to open the context and possible outcome during the tryouts.
After the project we interviewed some of the families and here is one answer: “The biggest benefit for me is probably the unique experience. An opportunity to contemplate about my family, to see it in different perspective… thus it was strange, almost some kind of ritual, to meet them all in movement, in art…”
The interview was conducted around August 2021.
Photo: Dainius Putinas