Debby Akam


A video installation by Debby Akam, Gary Power, Phoebe Power and Michael Hedges

In a filmed performance of a made- up ritual, Phoebe recites poetry about her grandmother, Christl. She stands in a wicker structure, because Christl was found abandoned in a basket as a baby. As the story unfolds, Christl’s son, Gary lights 240 candles set in the wicker cone.

Christl follows the migration of an Austrian woman to the UK after WW2, and the migration of history across three generations of a family. The source material for the narrative is an archive recording of a monologue spoken by Christl herself, that juxtaposes recollections of public and private events across contexts and chronologies against a background of family life, expressing feelings of displacement on moving to the UK in a fragmented narrative.

The work explores how making links across family generations can enhance an understanding of the connections between diverse people through history, genealogy, stories and art.

It is concerned with how the past is selected, prioritised and concealed through memory; how world events, social conventions, and how the serendipitous encounters of life contribute to determining a person’s history.


Video 25 minutes, multi-channel audio

1. Installation at The Old Fire Station, Penrith as  part of C-Art ‘Extraordinary Places’ September 2017

2. The culmination of the ritual 

3. Lighting the candles during the recitation of the text

4. Comments by visitors to the installation at the Old Fire Station

5. Installation view

6. Candles

7. Rehersal of the ritual