Andrea Small

Silence – a photo poem

Artefact I

Artefact II

Following Silence

a story in five acts and two artefacts 

by Andrea Small


The ways in which external events become represented and embedded in the  psyche are more important in the [psychoanalyst’s] consulting room than a  corroborated truth of what happened. 

Nuar Alsadir, poet/psychoanalyst/clown 

I didn’t start from here. I came across this quote as I was nearing the end of making, yet it expressed my process of reaching a whole-self understanding of the impossibility of filling in gaps or reaching an objective truth about the family story I have been working with since April 2021. 

In exploring my experience of my mother’s origin story for this project, I came to understand that Silence was a character in that story, beckoning me to follow wherever it might lead. 

At times, this following became a performance without an audience, a state of beingwith, a close listening to inner voices. 

Act I: song  

The song Holding the Silence was birthed on my mother’s first post death birthday.  

At the time, I did not know what it was about, but I knew it was powerful. As soon as I realised I had to follow Silence, I knew I had to return to this embryonic song. I worked on it with musical friends, who contributed harmonies and arrangement ideas. I intend to record the full song at some stage: for this project I decided to sing  it in its original form.  

Act II: an almost-poem  

On walks and in moments of beingwith, text presented itself. As I crafted it, the text became something that is almost a poem but not quite and I used this as a foundation for a folded book. 

Act III: book design  

Another intense period of beingwith led to the triangular folded design. I had intended to use quite a different fold, but when clearing my art desk came across a triangle book I had made recently and something clicked.  

Act IV: cutting/manipulating text and making book  

Here, the object of beingwith was the almost-poem: editing and moving text to accommodate the triangular design. At first I thought I would merely slice through the words, but I followed the urge to choreograph the words and phrases on the page. 

The book has two ways of being: open and closed. It is easy to close and hard to open. It takes patience. The gentle teasing of the ribbon in order to expose the manipulated text is an act of performance, of beingwith the artefact; a prayer, a meditation. 

The buttons are from my mother’s collection, which passed to me after her death. 

Act V: video  

I recorded myself singing the song and reading the almost poem, then combined those with videos of nature-based waiting.  

Artefact I: triangular folded book

Artefact II: video

August 2022

All work featured in the Creative Lives Gallery 2022 belongs to the artists and can only be reproduced with their permission.

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