Most people who have been to my grandma’s house have seen this picture. It is a bit disturbing and I was always curious to find out why she made this picture. When I asked her during the last twenty years I always got the same answer “I don’t know why I made it”. Grandma is growing older now and remembers details that she had forgotten before and that is why I asked her to write down the story of the picture. The first time I asked her to write down the story is almost a year ago. Grandma is writing a lot. She has always been writing but lately she seems to fill notebook after notebook to write down her memories. Finally last week she agreed to write down the story as soon as she finds time and today she gave it to me.
She gave me three hand written pages the first two are a kind of story or analysis of the picture. Either it is literary freedom or she included some flash backs that came to her while writing. I am not sure about this. The third page is a collage of a description how she made the picture and what happened to it as well as dadaistik dialogue at the end of the page.
Somehow I always expected her to write down a scandalous story of what she really thought while creating this collage. Instead, the lines she wrote down are mostly confusing me and do not really say what I wanted to hear.
Her oral explanation of the story to the picture usually included phrases like “I just wanted to do something creative and did not think about what came out of it” or some times she said “I started cutting out the faces from photographs and pasted them on the paper. After a while I got tiered of cutting out faces so I decided to draw something. Not thinking about what I did.” Not very satisfying answers if you ask me.
On the third page of her letter to the picture she explains that her husband preferred crafted birthday gifts and that is why she made the collage. He disliked it so much that he through it on the ground. Her youngest son picked it up an hid it until he died. After his death her oldest son, my father, framed it and put it on wall next to the other pictures that she had already put there. Here is interpretation of the story she wrote accompanying the envelope with the picture that she gave me today:
Plenty of heads, acquaintances and friends tightly crowded behind a fence. What are they staring at? Nobody really knows that is why they continue to stare. Somebody will know. Do you know? Unfortunately not!! Not? Ah, there is a man standing behind the fence. Is he in fear? Yes, yes he raises his hands apologetically. Or is he in pain? Nobody really knows because he does not speak. Surely, he cannot speak. How very sad. Does anybody of you know?
Maybe, he is just joking.
No, that is not it. Tears run down his face. For sure not tears of happiness. Well, we should ask him.
Maybe he is grateful if we ask him. It was experienced before. Or are his feet somehow stuck? But he could say so. We would like to help him. Alas, some people are strange. And want to deal with their business by themselves to show that they do not need anybody.
It often happens that suddenly you stand alone but actually you would like to talk to others.
Is it embarrassment or arrogance?
After this part it gets confusing.
For me the picture had a completely different story:
Every time I looked at the picture I thought that it shows an old Greek gymnasium. Spectators behind the fence are all friends and family. I assumed that the guy in the center of the gymnasium is my grandfather. (I do not remember my grandfather at all because he died when I was a toddler. I rarely heard something nice about him. I rarely heard anything about him but if I heard a family members speak about him it was usually more about the flaws of his personality.) My grandfather on the picture seems to have just slaughtered a human being as we can easily see by the body parts that are still on the floor. I never realized he was crying.
One of his hands also reaches for a braid of a girl in the audience. This is my grandma’s braid. My father is the young man left from her looking in her direction.
When I looked at this picture I always saw a violent murderer who was committing this act in front of the whole family. (Now, you also have to know that I have this theory about psychopathic family structures in the geographical region of Belgium, Germany and Austria. This theory is based on all the brutal child murder and family abuse news that came from this region during the last twenty years. I do not mean to take the act on the picture literally but want to emphasizes my general feeling about family culture in this region.)
As I have never known my grandfather and as I have not heard anything nice about him, I always assumed this picture was a representation of his personality.
After reading grandma’s notes. I am not sure anymore if she meant to say he was an unpleasant fellow or if she wanted to say he was stuck inside himself and did not know how to get out. Emotionally not capable of sharing and for this reason had a hard life.
Here are her original notes:
Für meine Nele von Selma Giebel
In meinem Zimmer mit Blick auf eine große weiße Rückwand, herrlich, herrlich!! Wieland hat mir zur Erinnerung lauter Fotos eingerahmt. Ein Bild interessiert sie besonders. Was wohl?
Lauter Köpfe, Bekannte und Freunde, dicht gedrängt hinter einem Zaun. Auf was starren sie? Keiner weiß es so richtig, also starren die Köpfe weiter. Irgend jemand wird es ja wissen. Weisst du es? Leider Nein!! Nicht? Aha, hinter dem Zaun steht ein Mann. Hat er irgendwie angst?
Ja, ja, er hebt bittend die Hände oder tut ihm was weh? Man weiß es wirklich nicht, weil er nämlich nicht spricht. Sicher kann er nicht sprechen.
Wie sehr traurig. Weiss einer von euch es? Es kann aber auch sein, daß der Mann nur spass macht.
Nein, auch nicht. Tränen rollen über sein Gesicht. Bestimmt keine Freudentränen. Also fragen wir ihn doch.
Vielleicht ist er dankbar, daß man diesen Mann fragt. So was erlebt man ja
öfters oder einer seiner Füsse steckt nur irgendwie fest. Aber so was könnte er ja sagen. Wir würden gerne helfen. Ach, manche Leute sind eben komisch und wollen alleine fertig werden um zu zeigen, daß sie keinen brauchen. Oft steht man dann plötzlich ganz alleine da und würde sich eigentlich gerne mit Leuten unterhalten.
Tcha, etwa Scham oder Hochmut?
Meine Mutter war da ganz anders. Sie ging sehr gerne spazieren. Papa flott um Vögeln und wilden Tieren nach zuschauen, aber Mama blieb bei Frauen stehen, die in Feldern schufteten und froh waren, sich mal bei einem kurzen Schwätzchen auszuruhen. Und die Eltern hatten beim weiter gehen neue Gesprächsstoffe. Manchmal kannte man sich auch schon von den vorherigen Gesprächen. Ich werde einfach das Bild weiter geben. Sicher, ist irgendjemand dabei, der Auskunft geben kann? Da haste das Bild. Nun rätsel du weiter. Mir jedenfalls ist es völlig egal.
Der Werdegang dieses Bildes und die Folgen. Au weh!!
Der Geburtstag meines Mannes nahte. Ich wußte, das er “umsonste” Geschenke haben wollte, also erarbeitete. Immerhin, einen Bilderrahmen hatte ich. Das war ja schon mal was. Aber der Inhalt? Ganz langsam entstand, ziemlich verzweifelt, dieses Bild. Ein Ärgernis für meinen Mann. Für Phantasie hatte er nichts übrig. Er schmiss das Bild in die Ecke. Rolf holte es raus und versteckte es. Das allerdings wußte ich nicht. Bald darauf starb mein Mann Ernst. Rolf holte das Bild wieder aus dem Versteck raus. Und Wieland holte einen Bilderrahmen und reihte das Bild mit einem Rahmen zu den anderen Bildern ein. Jetzt kriegt die Nele das Bild (mit Rahmen).
Das eine Bild mit Rahmen als Erinnerung.
Da hasts!!! Mach mit waste willst.
Ich, haha, kenne alle Namen. Jawoll!!
Aber verrate die Namen nicht. Das ist nun Deine Sache. Oder auch nicht. Obwohl ich Deine Tante bin. Das allerdings gefällst mir sehr gut. Dir auch? Heute ist Sonntag. Bei Dir auch? Son Zufall.