Samantha Small

Samantha Small is an artist based in Canberra, Australia. She came to the Gueststudios to work on a project about her partner John, who passed away exactly a year ago. She came her to make  a personal pilgrimage in memory of him. Since John was born in The Hague, this city was the right place to start her journey. 

For this project Samantha originally intended to create ephemeral monuments in the public space, that would detoriate as time would pass. In 2004 she already did a project in which she researched series of anonymous public memorials in London. She´s interested in how these monuments are significant and how individuals can take over the public space by showing something very personal. She likes to experiment with the exposure and visibility of stories and situations of people’s lives that usually aren’t visible because they’re too private.
She takes much interest in the personal, individual and private lives of strangers, lives of people she doesn´t know but to which she can also relate to at the same time. There´s always a connection between her own life and those of the other subjects in her work. For example she´s related as a traveler to Susan, the subject of her project ´Love Susan´. This project came into being after Samantha found a collection of postcards on a secondhand market. All the postcards were send by the same person, who was traveling around Europe in the ´80s. Samantha reconstructed Susans journey and made exactly the same trip to 8 countries in 8 weeks.
Clearly there are similarities between her other works and the project she´s working on right now in the Gueststudio. She uses the same kind of approach in this project, by collecting an archive of fragments of a person´s life. Only this time the subject of her project isn´t a stranger but somebody really close to her, so indirectly it´s about her own life too and about her own process of dealing with a great loss in her life. 

So far she worked out one memorial sign on paper and mounted the signs on a few places in the city. But while she was spreading the memorials in public space, it didn´t feel right to her to just leave them out on the street while they seemed to vanish in the environment. She realised that this wasn´t the right place or way to show the memorials and that she wanted to keep them in protection instead of putting them out on the streets in public.
To Samantha it felt like a surprise that her project didn´t turn out the way she thought it would, but on the other hand it feels like change and surprise are a natural part of the process she´s in at the moment. The project is about her discovering what mourning is and how she can deal with loss. But it isn´t a self-help project, for Samantha it´s more like being on a quest in search of answers to unanswered questions. Because she doesn´t know yet how to mourn, how to feel and what to do to make herself feel beter.
            She hasn´t found any concrete answers yet, but she´s sure that certain rituals should help you as a person and that it isn´t about the person who passed away or about a public. Instead of making it a series of public monuments she decided to keep it personal, she transformed a part of her studio in a memorial itself. Instead of holding on to the aura of darkness and heaviness around mourning, she wants to turn it into a celebration of life and specifically a celebration of the life of John. She filled the studio with objects and memories related to her partner. She wants to make something creative out of something destructive. And to her it feels like she’s only just begun with it.

Samantha´s partner John was an artist too and in this project she decided to work with the same subjects, texts and materials he used too. She wanted to do something with fabric because he used it often in his work. Samantha already covered one of the pictures on the wall of the Gueststudio with a veil, something Samantha probably wants to do to more of the memories. The veils are still a bit transparent, while they also cover up a what's behind it, so you can only see an impression of the reality underneath it.

We´re really glad to offer Samantha a place where she can work on this special project, in this intense and emotional period. She prefers to call it a project instead of a work, because it’s about the process. There are no steady rules, anything can change, she just has to figure out what feels good to her in this process. Very exciting!